The Column

The Way You See the World

In the last 4 years I’ve consumed 4 bowls of cereal. The roof of my mouth thanks me because it’s not been frazzled by slurping milk remnants. But lactose intolerance is not why. Believe me, my milk chocolate consumption would appall you. No, it’s because the way I saw breakfast changed come 7 years ago on meeting my husband Henrique, a Brazilian.

Many of my assumptions, like cereal as a breakfast staple, have changed the more I’ve let people different from me into my life.

Camping for instance, is another ordeal for Americans. What the Brits partake in is a glorified outdoor sleepover. This struck home when I stared into the stinking septic tank on my debut US camping trip in 2019. Grimacing down, I had a flashback of a UK camping trip. Our adults hauling a 30 inch tv out the car boot (trunk) and into the tent (and TVs weren’t flat back then). Whereas, camping US style will have you entering in conversations about burying your poop, evading bear intrusions and avoiding losing any valuables down the septic tank pit.

We’re different in everything we’ve experienced and from everyone we’ve crossed paths with. Each bringing a unique page to the book.

I joined a book club.

Our latest book was Carnegie’s Maid, set in 19th Century Pennsylvania. It fabricates the story of Tom Carnegie’s love affair with an altruistic Irish maid and attributes it to his sudden pivot to diehard philanthropy. The Carnegies were responsible for setting up the first public libraries in the US. Before this, libraries were a private affair, locked away in the estates of the wealthy.

In book club discussion we all bought something different to the table. 

Mine was a perception of how different philanthropy is in the US. Most universities are founded on the names of donors, as are hospitals, museums and most exhibits around. What stood out glaringly for me was that the incentives for philanthropy, principally tax breaks, indeed are pretty effective stateside. Culture and universities are thriving here. Perhaps other countries need to take stock.

The other girls at book club homed in on aspects that caught their imagination: from name-dropping New Yorkers, to soot-covered industrial revolution Pittsburgh. Aspects I’d glossed over.

I’m a new book club advocate.

Book club is a fantastic means to assemble a group of friends that are different from you in any way possible – political, racial, educational, nationality, upbringing, class.

Book club is a chance to connect with those that you don’t immediately gel with because you aren’t chums from high school or a carbon copy of each other. A glorious way to distance yourself from the afflictions of gossip, because there’s nothing to chin-wag about apart from the characters in the book.

And finally, life is rich with other people’s experiences and perceptions in the mix.

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