A Circle That Cares About the World


American novelist Alice Walker reminds us:

“A writer, to be connected to the world,
should have a circle that cares about the world.
And out of that would come the writing.”

In rural Ohio where I grew up, our entire circle was white. Some people had freckles or olive skin, but they all had one thing in common: they were Caucasian.

My parents prided themselves on open-mindedness, in part because they held opposing political views on nearly everything. It was not uncommon for passersby to see the signs of rival candidates staked in our front yard.

Mom’s to the left and Dad’s to the right.

Of course, both candidates were male and white.

As I grew older, my circle widened. The 4-H band members, college floor-mates, law school club members, and colleagues at a variety of jobs I held didn’t look, sound, or act like me. I met and learned from people of different races, nationalities, sexual orientations, and creeds.

An Indonesian Muslim taught me to use chopsticks in the dorm cafeteria and told me of how proud she was to be the first woman in her family to leave the country and go to college. I typed papers for a young black man who went on to become a judge. My dorm sisters and I listened to our young Palestinian friend weep when her cousin died during an international crisis.

I made friends across borders, colors, denominations. My circle grew broad and bright.

Recently, I’m reexamining my circle.

Is it big enough, colorful enough, open-minded enough? Have I surrounded myself with a circle that cares about the world? As Walker explains, the voices I hear regularly will bleed into my writing. I want to choose with care.

What does your circle look like? Does it care about the world?

For more wisdom from authors like Alice Walker, please check out You Should Be Writing, the new writing journal from Mango Publishing by Brenda Knight and Nita Sweeney.

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