Making Life More Meaningful by Danielle Wiener

Janel LewandowskiYear of the Artist

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As an avid reader, I’ve always felt both curious and suspicious of book clubs. The idea of getting together with other book lovers and discussing our mutual interest was intriguing, but that would require me to read a book chosen by someone else. However, I noticed this year a fading of my attention and interest in the pile of nonfiction books waiting on the bookshelf. With the encouragement of a friend, I tentatively tried out a small Well Read Mom book club; to my surprise, I found myself getting excited to read again.

Well Read Mom is “a book club for women and a way to accompany one another in reading the classics, great books, and timeless spiritual works from the Western and Catholic traditions in order to nurture our hearts and awaken the moral imagination,” according to their Reading Companion. Our theme is Year of the Artist, with selections from a variety of respected authors, including Willa Cather, J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde and Louisa May Alcott.

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We often find ourselves relating the books’ theme to our own lives, or taking the time to understand the characters in a deeper way. My fear that book club would be a dry exercise of over-analyzing the written word seemed silly after the first meeting. The book brought us together, women of different ages and life experiences, and discussing it created an opportunity for us to share and value one another’s ideas. We find ourselves being honest and open about our lives, exploring things which we might normally keep to ourselves.

In December, we read The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri J.M. Nouwen, and a sentence really stood out to me: “Real loneliness comes when we have lost all sense of having things in common [with other people].” Despair, anxiety, depression, and suicide have become increasingly noticeable in our society, even as we are more “connected” than ever to humans around the world. We crave meaningful connection with people who understand us.

I encourage everyone reading this to reach out and positively touch the life of someone you know who may be lonely or in need this holiday season. This should be a time of reflection and renewal, so let go of unnecessary stress, anxiety, or worry. As you look forward to 2020, consider taking a leap of faith and trying something new. If you want to join a book club, check out your local library or community center. If you want to create a garden and grow more of your own food, visit the master gardener’s group. If you want to make a positive difference in your community, check out organizations like New Pathways, or volunteer at a nursing home.

The opportunities for a life full of peace, joy and fulfillment are all around us. Sometimes in order to move forward, we need to let go of our fear of the unknown. Joining a book club has blessed my life, and I’m hopeful for even more opportunities to learn and grow in the new year.

Danielle Wiener is a guest columnist for the Messenger.

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