I’m reading Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo to my daughter right now. I read books like that kind of like I’m hearing Stuart Mclean read them on Vinyl Cafe. It seems to make the story more poignant some how. It makes the deeper meanings jump out at me. Tonight the story of Gloria Dump jumped out at me and so I thought I would share my revelation.
Gloria Dump is an old woman living in Naomi Florida where our precocious heroine Opal and her intrepid mutt Winn-Dixie have recently moved. It’s because of Winn-Dixie that Opal is able to integrate herself into the new community. He’s how she meets her new friends. He’s how she gets a job. And he’s how she manages to reconnect with her somewhat estranged father, the Preacher. As the title suggests, all that happens in the book happens because of Winn-Dixie. One of the people that Opal meets because of Winn-Dixie is Gloria. Gloria doesn’t see well and so asks Opal to tell all there is to know about her. Gloria asks for that favour so she can see Opal with her heart.
That was a moment of clarity for me. One of few, it seems, these days. But that was a powerful one. I thought about how I react when I’m working and the kids come home: I finish up what I’m doing and then go find them. But even when I do, I only see them with my eyes and listen with my ears. We’ve all heard a child answer the question “What did you do at school today” with “Nothing.” But children have an inate empathy that we tend to lose as adults. They know when they’re being listened to to the exclusion of all else. They know when they’re not being seen from the heart. I realized that they are hardly to blame when we’ve conditioned them to think that regardless of what they say, we won’t hear them…not truly.
So, my goal for the immediate future is to see people with my heart. To truly listen when someone speaks. To offer what seems most resonant to them as a person rather than addressing what’s important to me. And yes, I’ll do all that, because of Winn-Dixie. They say it’s important to read to your kids because of the literacy they gain. I think it’s important to read to your kids because it reminds you of a time, seemingly long ago, when you were there too. It reminds you of that empathy and if you see the stories with your heart, can bring a little of it back.