What fills your cup? What energises you? What replenishes your soul?
I’ve shared before that reading is a life-giving rhythm for me. As a kid, I was so keen I’d read the back of the cereal packet (Weet Bix) at the breakfast table. Over and over again. I’ve always loved books.
My reading habits have ebbed and flowed over the years, sometimes smothered by the urgency of other things, like kids and work. But when I don’t read regularly, the fuel that I need to live a flourishing life is missing. Reading is not only good for me – it’s also important for my spiritual and mental health. And so, at the beginning of 2023 I set myself the goal of reading 30 books across the year. When December 31 rolled around my tally had reached 28, so not quite there. But how grateful I am for the books I did ‘disappear’ into.
Through 2023 I read all sorts – novels, theology, spiritual memoirs, history and biographies. It was biographies and memoirs that really gripped me. I find the stories of people’s lives, their tragedies and triumphs, the twists and turns, fascinating. I learn so much from the hard-earned wisdom accumulated in and through the lives of others. It’s through the stories of others I am challenged and encouraged to reflect on the story God is weaving together in my life.
If you’re interested, I reflected on the biographies I read in a blog article here. One of those books was a magnificent 982 page (!) biography of Winston Churchill, which I reflected on here. Always keen to hear the book recommendations of others – so feel free to email them in!
These days great stories are told not only in books, but through great films and long-form TV. Sue and I recently finished watching ‘Boy Swallows Universe’, the terrific Netflix adaptation of Trent Dalton’s book about two boys growing up in traumatic circumstances in 1980’s Brisbane. Ultimately hopeful (and with a killer soundtrack), it was unflinching in its bracing portrayal of addiction, violence, family dysfunction and the trauma so many kids deal with.
Strange as it may seem, while watching ‘Boy Swallows Universe’, I couldn’t help thinking of the work we do at Wesley Mission, particularly supporting families and kids. One character, a school counsellor played by the fabulous Deborah Mailman, was a consistent, positive and constructive presence in Eli and Gus’s lives. In her own small, yet significant way, she empowered the boys to write a different story with their lives than the one their traumatic circumstances suggested was likely, even inevitable.
That’s what we do at Wesley Mission. We empower people. We give them agency to write different stories, better stories with their lives than circumstances and societal expectations would suggest. That’s the ‘good’ we do – whether it’s a Family Preservation or Out of Home Care case worker, a Homelessness, Home Care or Disability team member, a Gambling or Financial Counsellor, Lifeline Crisis Supporters and Escaping Violence Payment (EVP) case workers, indeed all our frontline staff – and those of us who have the privilege of supporting them. We don’t simply read stories; we empower others to write better ones. What a privilege!