Fully half of these were comprised of Bibles, Southern Baptist Sunday School Quarterlies, Farmer’s Almanacs, and Sears Roebuck Catalogs. The rest consisted of a paltry collection of such American classics as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, and of course, as in every southern home, the obligatory copy of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.
As a small boy in a day and age when there was no internet, no cable television, etc…, I craved information - especially written information. As a result, slowly but surely, I began to amass my own collection of “worthwhile” literature. By a system of barter and trade with my classmates and friends, I collected up various editions of Boy’s Life, Hot Rod, and Mad Magazines.
I soon discovered that I had an insatiable appetite for trivia. Because of this, in short order, I had moved from magazines to such essential works as the Guinness Book of World Records and all of Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story books that I could find. Needless to say, my mom picked up on this, and soon made certain to purchase a complete set of Encyclopedias for our home. Thereafter, I was dutifully enrolled in the “Weekly Reader Book Club”, and found myself eagerly awaiting the next regularly scheduled bi-monthly delivery in the mail.
In the meantime, my third grade teacher had read a fairly lengthy book to us, a little each day. It was written by Madge Bingham and titled Sonny Elephant. I cannot describe the delight with which I looked forward each day to third period in the third grade. It was about this time when I realized that even the lengthiest of books could be conquered if they were tackled a little at a time.
Emboldened by this realization, I soon finished all of the Weekly Reader books we had acquired. And, after much psyching up, in my seventh grade year, I finally set out to read the entire set of Encyclopedias that my mom had earlier purchased from cover to cover. I got all the way to “Volume P” before the demands of college pretty much put an end to my leisure reading.
But I have continued to read and to acquire books throughout my entire life. So much so that, these days, I have amassed a fairly substantial library. And yes, right in the middle of it is that set of Encyclopedias, first acquired in 1969, that I one day intend to finish.
And even now, few of my books are as precious to me as those simple books of my childhood. On occasion, as time permits, I allow myself to wander through that section of my bookshelves; and when I do, I invariably find myself compelled to take a short break from my hectic daily schedule, and just to sit down and read a few pages from an old paperback copy of Ripley’s Believe It or Not or some other such book.
Whenever I do, I find myself transported back to those wonderful days of childhood – to a time when my mind was a blank slate, and when I was hungry for knowledge and when I was eager to fill that void with any and all sorts of information. It was King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, who once said (Proverbs 18:15 NASB), “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”
In recognition of this, all I can say in such moments is “Thank you.” First, thank you, Lord, that you gave me an inquisitive mind and an education wherein I learned to read and to expand my mind. Thank you as well, my dear Mother, for recognizing that learning, however simplistic, is a good thing; and that it is also the key to transcending one’s environment and to going places in this world; and having provided me with opportunities to expand my mind as a result.
And lastly, thank you, Mr. Disney, Mr. Guinness, Mr. Ripley, Mr. Harvey, and numerous others of you who used your God-given talents to compile and compose wholesome information, however trivial, and also to disseminate it in a form that even a child could appreciate and comprehend it. Whether you knew it or not, whether you intended it or not, you opened up a world of opportunity for one little boy. And he will never forget that. Indeed, he will remain eternally grateful. I know, for I am that little boy.
NOTE: Many excellent quotes on the value of books can be found at: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/books. See also: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/book.html.