Why I Write
I had put writing aside after college. Anything but number crunching and wearing a neck tie didn't feel serious to me. Writing was a hobby. I went on to work jobs that limited my composition to sending emails. I would craft for myself and my coworkers clear, concise, and eloquent emails. It would only have been a matter of time until I was sending information about deadlines in iambic pentameter. Of course, my email crafting was somewhat a waste of time. These messages probably could have been communicated in emojis.
My views on writing changed after a providential meeting I had while out for a walk in uptown Charlotte. I had nowhere in particular to be. I was probably headed to get a burger. My path crossed with a casually dressed guy wearing socks with sandals and a backpack. Since we were walking in the same direction, we struck up a conversation. We immediately jumped into the most offensive and taboo topics: politics and religion. We found that we shared our Christian faith in common (and nothing else).
We ended up talking for about six hours total over the course of two days. I learned that this person was homeless, and had come to be that way after some extremely difficult life experiences. We talked about life issues, like why he was having difficulty keeping a job, how drugs were not helping his situation, and how things could change. This person did not even have the basic tools and information to be successful. I spent an hour trying to explain why smoking marijuana could be keeping him out of work. The reasons for this are obvious to some people. It wasn't obvious to him.
I thought that if my friend knew what I knew, he could quickly turn his life around. He could find a job, and eventually be able to afford a place to live. I once heard a famous story about Henry Ford. He was asked what he would do if he lost everything. He replied that he would have it all back in less than five years. Ford attributed his success to his knowledge and experience. He knew the formula, and he was confident he could repeat it.
I encouraged my friend to become a reader. I gave him the book I had with me that I was reading at the time: Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute. I also encouraged him to read the Proverbs. Our worst mistakes and failures could be avoided if we all read and applied the Proverbs.
It’s easy for us to take our knowledge and unique skills for granted. We know it so well that we assume everyone else does, too. Here I had knowledge that could have changed this man's life (and hopefully it did). We put a lot of value on a handful of skills in our society, and undervalue everything else. Many of us can have whatever we want with the click of a remote, or short drive to the store. That kind of abundance puts our skills in less demand. Even if you know something, you may not be able to get paid for it. Your talents may have been outsourced, automated, or made obsolete, but you can still use them to help people.
My goal while writing at the Old Wooden Bookshelf is to make my contribution. Books that I take for granted might make all the difference for someone who has never heard of them. Think of your own knowledge and skills. You may be an expert in something and not even understand how it could be used to help other people. Look for a way to put this knowledge to work. You don’t have to make money to benefit yourself and those around you.