It is thundering as I write this, so Lucy is on my lap. I try to reassure and comfort her but she is trembling with fear and looks around wildly each time there’s another clap of thunder. Molly glares out the window as if she is ordering Mother Nature to cut it out.
Lucy’s fear seems unnecessary, even foolish, to those who know that thunder won’t hurt her, but her fear is real and no matter how many times I tell her, “It’s okay,” she clearly doesn’t believe me. She doesn’t know what that loud noise is and, therefore, she’s scared of it.
We humans also fear the unknown. For us it may be a person from a different background or someone of another race. Elderly people sometimes look with suspicion at teens, and people of certain religions view anyone with different beliefs as dangerous. We don’t quake and pant as Lucy does, but we too often back away from unfamiliar people or concepts without giving them a chance. This is one reason why I think it’s important to read widely. Books expose us to fresh viewpoints. With fiction, we meet characters who are unlike the people in our daily lives. With nonfiction we learn about ideas and lifestyles that we wouldn’t ordinarily encounter. The more we are exposed to those unlike ourselves, the less afraid of them we are.