When I was a boy we always had books in our home, lots of books. From my earliest years Mom bought me books. I still have some of them and I treasure them.
Before I could read she read to me and then bought me age-appropriate books. I devoured the Hardy Boys series. When I finished one I begged her to get me the next one, and she did. In recent years I have given those same books to my children and had them to read them.
Soon it got to the point where I saw the books Mom was reading sitting on an end table and began to read them. I remember a book by Ladybird Johnson, the wife of President Lyndon Johnson, called “The White House Diary”. It was my first introduction to politics and I enjoyed reading it. It was fascinating. I think I have learned more from my reading than in all of the classes I have ever taken combined.
Another book I read several times as a youngster on the end table was “Angel Unaware” by Dale Evans Rogers, the wife of Roy Rogers. It was about the lessons they learned from their daughter that was born with Down’s Syndrome . She died before she was three years old.
That book really touched me as a young boy. For the first time it made me aware to the brevity of life and the reality of grieving. I couldn’t read it without feeling sorrow in my heart for the parents, even over and again. Little did I know that my future would involve spending a lot of time ministering to hurting people and even dealing with my own grief.
To this day I still consume books. First of all my calling as a pastor requires it and I love it! I have a great hunger to learn and grow and some of my best mentors are people I have never met, but have influenced me through their writing. I am a better person and have a broader breadth of knowledge and principles because of the influence of my Mom to help me to be a reader.
While all readers aren’t leaders, I do believe that all leaders are readers. The late Charles “Tremendous” Jones said, “You are the same today you’ll be in five years except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read”. I think that’s an accurate statement.
Sometimes people ask me what my hobbies are and I tell them I have two: reading and following the University of Alabama football team. That’s it. These are the things I do that make me relax (unless the reading is research for sermons and lessons; that’s another issue!).
This past summer Paula, Aubrey, Jake and I had the privilege to visit Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was a great experience! I would recommend it to everyone. In a letter to his friend, John Adams, in the last decade of his life, Jefferson wrote a simple line that conveyed his love for books. He wrote, “I cannot live without books”.
Two years ago I read Adams’ biography by David McCullough simply titled, “John Adams”. It was one of the best books I have read in years. (Get it and read it!) When I came across that line Jefferson wrote to Adams I laughed out loud (and marked it in the book) and read it to Paula.
After our tour of Monticello we were in the gift shop and they had a small decorative board with that quote, “I cannot live without books”. Paula bought it for me and now it sits directly over the place where I do most of my writing for lessons, talks, and sermons.
Groucho Marx said, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
Over a half century later I am still reading – and so is Mom. We still exchange titles and books and discuss them. If you go to her home I promise you that there will be at least five books within ten feet of where she is sitting. Mom didn’t tell me to read; she modeled it for me.
My life, and I hope that of others, has been enriched because of the day my dear Mom began to read to me and buy me books. Thanks, Mom! I’m doing the same for my children.