In “Mastiff,” a short story by Joyce Carol Oates, a couple who are taking a walk come across some other hikers. After the woman has a brief exchange with them, her date asks why she would bother talking to them; after all, she’d never see them again. She responds by saying that that’s the best reason for talking to them.

What feels like a lifetime ago (thankfully), I fell into the category of “why bother”? I hadn’t yet figured out how much interactions with strangers could and would impact my life. I kept my world tightly constructed, and, in the process, may have suffocated those I held dear. It was a life fortressed by fear. What I’ve come to learn is that the only means for us to thrive as individuals and society is through engagement. Sharing the same physical terrain, the same human form, it’s vital to remember we are not alone. The world can be so much richer and vibrant if we allow ourselves to invite others in.

Working at a public library, I interact with a lot of people on a daily basis, yet I don’t interact with a lot of “strangers.” This community is privileged. And, by “privileged,” I mean that it is a community privileged to be composed of a beautifully rich tapestry of genuine and authentic souls. I’ve discovered that, often, it is through the smiles of others that I find my strength.

I also read books to feel connected to the rest of humanity. What I learn by reading fiction comes through the realization that there are others who may seem completely different from me, but there is always something that binds us together. This is clear both reading a book as a solitary act, but, also when a book is discussed with others. At a recent meeting of the library’s fiction group, one of the participants said, “We don’t read fiction; we read friction.” Laughing at this comment, I think it’s safe to say that we are united in the knowledge that we respect each other’s right to disagree, because not only do we read “friction,” we do it together. And, we return every month to repeat the process. 

Be on the lookout for the next edition of Connections, the library’s award-winning magazine featuring a wide array of programs, and, please join us to make connections of your own. 

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