I used to visit the library every chance I had. It was my favorite place in the world. I loved its quiet atmosphere, the air thick and warm with stories, knowledge, wisdom, all ready to be discovered in hundreds of books.
And oh, the smell. I loved walking through those endless-looking shelves filled with books waiting to be read. I was a fast reader, and devoured books as if I was a hungry predator. I was always looking for a new book to read.
The selection of books was a meticulous process. I’d browse through the youth section of the library, searching for the perfect choice. I would take a book out and put it back, carefully study book covers and read the information on the back. I was very picky about the cover. The cover had to be pretty. If I wasn’t feeling it, I wasn’t reading it. If I didn’t like the cover, I wouldn’t even flip the book over to read the back. I was never going to read an ugly book.
The downside to being a fast reader and a picky book picker was that after a few months there were no more books to read.
No books with pretty book covers that is. Hesitantly I started perusing the youth section again, this time going for second best. I read Roald Dahl’s The Giant Peach, the one Roald Dahl book I had neglected to read because I didn’t like the cover.
I vividly remember how much fun I had reading that book. After that, I discovered one surprising book after another. They all revealed content that I never would have guessed from looking at the cover alone.
One day I read The Blooming Mimosa Tree by Gerda van Cleemput. For months I had kept putting the book back on the shelf because of its hideous cover. When I finally read it, it blew me away. The book told the life story of Helen Keller. I was intrigued and found my first real hero. I cried with her disappointments, cheered with her victories. When I had to walk down the stairs I closed my eyes and tried to find my way in the dark. I sat on my bed trying to imagine the sweet smell of mimosa flowers.
The book left a huge impression on me. It taught me the meaning of the word “perseverance”.
Yes, I learned a valuable lesson at that young age. I am wired to react to visuals, and I’m naturally drawn to pretty things. I guess we all are to some extent. We let our eyes guide us and motivate who or what to choose and how to judge. And by doing so we miss out on inspiring people, fabulous places and great experiences.
So say hello to that other mother who is not your kind of person. Give your best smile to that teenage girl covered in face piercings. Offer coffee to the eccentric old man across the street or offer to help that foreign family with their different manners and clothing. You may find a hidden treasure on the inside.
These days I’m still a little flaky when it comes to picking out books, and I’m still oversensitive to pretty book covers. When choosing a book I touch it, smell it, read the back, open up the book and read a few lines.
But I never ever judge a book by it’s cover. Because beauty isn’t always visible from the outside.
Are you tempted to judge people (or books) by the way they look? Tell me about the hidden treasures you have discovered when you ignored whatever it was that your eyes tried to tell you.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mirjam of the Netherlands. Photo credit: Entressen kirjasto. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.