Kicking off the month of thankfulness, I express my gratitude for books.
Where would I be if I had not found books?
I've spent many hours pondering the reason I was able to escape the fate of so many in my family: stuck in a small town, addicted to drugs, living with an abusive spouse, dependent on welfare, in many cases with a felony record due to desperate acts.
I hid from my chaotic upbringing in the pages of books. Instead of drugs and alcohol, I became addicted to learning. Books were my friends instead of the wrong crowd.
Stories introduced me to a world beyond the ten mile radius our lack of reliable car limited us to. We didn't have computers, much less internet, back then. Even if we did, we couldn't have afforded it.
Books introduced me to heroes who fought their way out of traumatic circumstances to thrive. They taught me that no matter how downtrodden you are, you can break free and construct the life you want. That monsters could be slayed. They were my shield and my sword in a world I had no training for.
Some books led me down blind pathways, especially when it came to love and romantic relationships. I blame early bad relationship choices on romance novels. Other books repaired those broken messages and I recognized real love when it came my way.
As an adult, books helped me realize I didn't have to put up with abusers. I was able to overcome survivor's guilt. I understood that being the "white" sheep was a strength, not a failure, and healthy boundaries were not "cold and unfeeling." Being ambitious was not "getting above myself," but becoming my best self.
If not for the library and bookmobile, I would not have had access to the books that changed my world.
If not for teachers encouraging me to read and to write my truth, I would never have healed the wounds inflicted by my childhood through journaling and poetry.
Books are the greatest gift you can give struggling children: stories to inspire, heroes to emulate, and information to educate. Vulnerable children desperately need free access to books. Stories impart empathy for others. Breadth of knowledge opens minds and doors. Books make many children feel less alone.
Literacy and libraries cannot save everyone. You have to want to be saved. Sometimes the price of breaking free feels too high or other factors prevent it. Nevertheless, the right books can offer a lifeline to those who are seeking one.
I am deeply grateful to all of the fiction and nonfiction writers who helped me fulfill my potential.
As a writer, if you inspire one person, you leave the world a better place.
There is power in the pen. Wield it wisely. Write your truth and remember your message matters.
You never know who will read it and be forever changed.
Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.