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Serendipity: Not Just a Second-Rate John Cusak Movie

2013 July 18
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This post is a reader’s response to a book read for the 2013 Hub Reading Challenge.

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van DraanenLibrarians like to talk about serendipity — that magical thing that happens when you’re looking on the shelf for one book, and the perfect book that you didn’t even know you were looking for catches your eye. You take it off the shelf, consider the cover, and go home together to live happily every after (or at least for three weeks; then you have to return the book).

I’ve often experienced a second type of serendipity with books. This is more of the right-book-at-the-right-time type of coincidence.

A student emailed me in February looking for The Running Dream. We didn’t have it in our collection, but I kept it in the back of my mind. At that point, I wasn’t familiar with much on the Best of the Best list aside from the big awards. In March I was told that some extra money was available. So I whipped out the full list and started an order. Since someone had asked for it, it was about running (I’m a runner), and it was on the list, I ordered it on faith.

The book arrived at my library on April 16th … the day after the Boston Marathon. On that day, like most runners, I was trying to figure out what I could do. A volunteer application for the local chapter of Achilles International, a running group for disabled athletes, had been sitting on my desk for a week waiting to be scanned and emailed. I finally sent it in and scheduled my first run.

That’s also when I decided to pick up The Running Dream. It looked like it would be a quick read and then I could talk it up to my students at a meeting. Serendipity struck again. I flew through the book during my ride on the trolley to meet my new running buddies. During that first run, some folks were having a conversation about Amy Palmiero-Winters, a below-the-knee amputee and ultramarathoner who is referred to in the book when Jessica’s coach first approaches her with the idea that she could run again.

I wonder if I would have been as enthralled with this book if I had read it in February. I’m certain I would have liked it an awful lot, because at its heart, it’s a story about running and the feeling of freedom that comes from being able to move with that speed. Jessica knows it and wants it back. She realizes how much it means to share it with Rosa. It’s a sentiment I hear again and again from the Achilles athletes. It’s a message I can share with my students, who need to face and overcome their own struggles on a daily basis.

In April, this was the perfect book at the perfect time. It touched my heart and helped me gain a new perspective on my sport and what my role can be in its community.

– Amy Gillespie

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