image from human

image from human


“We wanted to particularly tell stories that are less often told,” said Tracey Mitchell, co-ordinator of Next Up Saskatchewan.

via Human Library tells stories of social change in Saskatchewan – Saskatoon – CBC News.

I’ve read about the concept of human libraries before, but I just found out that there was one held much closer to “home” in Saskatoon SK. I would love to have the opportunity to attend a human library both as a reader and as a book.  The possibilities of the experience I think would present many opportunities to learn and grow.

Not familiar with a human library?

The Human Library is an innovative method designed to promote dialogue, reduce prejudices and encourage understanding.The main characteristics of the project are to be found in its simplicity and positive approach.”

I fear that story telling is becoming a lost art form.  We’ve become a society that has grown to expect flash, sound, special effects, grandeur and speed; cut to the chase type of thinking.  We want to be entertained.

When we want a break, we grab a mental hiatus by watching cute babies, cute kittens, cute animals, funny pranks, stupid stunts, anything to “take a break” from life.

What we’re really doing more often than not is just distracting our brains from living.  That’s right, we take a break from living life, which really, is what we’re supposed to do.  Now don’t get me wrong, taking a break is a good thing to do.  It’s imperative to maintaining good overall health. But in my humble opinion, a lot of us don’t take healthy breaks, we take mind numbing breaks, which I don’t consider to be of equal value.

I’ve always loved stories wether read, told or acted out with dramatic flare.  I’ve always enjoyed seeing how other people’s experiences, ideas and imagination fit together.  I like to learn from them, get new ideas, rework old ideas.

When I read, I love the smell of the paper, the feel of the pages, the weight of a book in my hands.  I can’t ask a book a question though.   I can only hope the answer to my question will be contained somewhere within the pages.

But a human book, just think! There is the inflection of the voice, emotion in the eyes, the pause in the story, the quiver of a lip, the quiet sigh, a brilliant smile, animated gestures.  And there’s the ability to truly interact, for the story, to come Alive!

I remember when I was a student, many, many years ago.  Long before things like Skype and Youtube could so easily bring the rest of the world and its people right into the classroom, we were thrilled when we had a “guest”.  Sure, it was a treat because it was something different but it was also amazing because those people brought the world to us.  Maybe it was someone’s grandfather who had fought in the war and he wore his medals.  Maybe it was a missionary who spoke about how children in other countries couldn’t go to school, or had to sit on dirt floors.  Or maybe it was a mother who had lost her child in an accident because of a drunk driver.

At least for me, those people made a far greater and longer lasting impression than any facts I read that were written in black and white.

“This program is about inspiring young people to act,” Mitchell explained. “And we think that we can really build on the history of social change work in this province. We have a rich history — medicare, and co-ops and lots of different things that really started here.”   Tracey Mitchell, Next Up Saskatchewan Co-ordinator.

I really think this is such a fantastic opportunity for everyone of every age.  We all have stories, stories that can inspire, motivate, change and even save others.  It’s funny how we often don’t think we have anything to offer, when in reality we have so much to offer, we just take it for granted.

Imagine as a student, if your teacher one day said let’s go to the library and you walked in and instead of selecting paper books or e-books, you could sit down with someone and have the story actually come to life.

If you’re interested in more information about human libraries and their history you can check out their website.  As with many neat ideas it started from a not so wonderful experience for some young men in Denmark.  But out of that experience, something wonderful has come about.

Once upon a time in Copenhagen, Denmark. There was a young and idealistic youth organisation called “Stop The Violence”. This non-governmental youth movement was self initiatied by the five youngsters Dany Abergel, Asma Mouna, Christoffer Erichsen, Thomas Bertelsen and Ronni Abergel from Copenhagen after a mutual friend was stabbed in the nightlife (1993). The brutal attack on their friend, who luckily survived, made the five youngsters decide to try and do something about the problem. To raise awareness and use peer group education to mobilise danish youngsters against violence. In a few years the organisation had 30.000 members all over the country.

In 2000 Stop The Violence was encouraged by then festival director, Mr. Leif Skov, to organise acitivites for Roskilde Festival. Events that would put focus on anti-violence, encourage dialogue and build relations among the festival visitors. And the Human Library was born, as a challenge to the crowds of Northern Europes biggest summer festival.

Marvin J. Ashton once said,

“If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care.”

And somewhere in all of that, just maybe we could learn to accept others too.  Now that idea makes us Rise Like Air.


©2015 Rise Like Air  J. Fries

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