Book Review: A Hand To Guide Me is a Good Reminder for These Times

Posted: December 24, 2011 in A Hand to Guide Me, Boys and Girls Club, children, Denzel Washington, free books, jobs, mentors, Poor, president, Republicans, role models, unemployment, work

It’s a nasty world for kids right now.

One in four children are living in poverty. The Republican presidential candidates have taken positions that are pretty much, if you are poor you deserve it. One Republican presidential candidate wants to fire parents, abolish child labor laws and make the children do their jobs. He claims that poor children have no work ethic because the only role models they have who work are those who are doing something that is illegal.

Republican lawmakers are doing everything they can to make it impossible for children to thrive, because they’re making it impossible for their parents to survive. The current attitude is every man for himself; let your neighbor fend for himself.

In 11 Presidential debates, the Republican candidates have put forth the idea that people would rather “redistribute” money from America’s wealthiest people than work, and they act as if these extremely wealthy people became so wealthy by hard work. They act as if these people who are trying to find jobs, or those who are among the working poor could become wealthy if they just worked as hard as the wealthy do.

If only it were that easy.

There are a myriad of reasons that people, that children, become successful or wealthy adults. Some are born to it. Others have been lucky enough to attain it through their hard work, but not everyone who works hard will attain great wealth.

In his book, A Hand to Guide Me: Inspiring Personal Stories, Denzel Washington suggests that the reason the 74 people who share their stories became so successful is because they had some person, some adult, who reached out to guide them in the right direction when they were young.

Among the story contributors are former President Bill Clinton, Choreographer Debbie Allen, Baseball Great Hank Aaron, Boxing Great Muhammad Ali, Actor Jame Farr (MASH) and Retired Juvenile Court Judge and Syndicated Television Personality Glenda Hatchett. There are plenty of businessmen and athletes, and others, all with inspirational stories to share in three or four page blocks, which makes them easy to digest.

An example of the types of stories shared comes from Ron Sargent, Chairman and CEO, Staples, who as a 12-year-old child was asked by a teacher whether he was thinking about going to college. That question inspired him to go to business school. Retired Television Journalist Bernard Shaw was inspired by Edward R. Murrow, whom he never met, but watched on television broadcasts on the news. Walter Cronkite, whom he did meet, became his idol,  mentor, and his friend.

One of my favorites came from legendary basketball coach John Wooden, “No, there is nothing stronger than gentleness after all.” I was also inspired by Muhammad Ali, who was inspired by Nelson Mandela. Ali, seeing that Mandela “radiated love and warmth” when he could have been “resentful or cynical” after being unfairly locked up for much of his life, strengthened Ali’s resolve “for standing up for what is right.”

You might wonder why I’m reviewing a six-year-old book. One, because I just got around to reading it and two, because I believe we could use some inspiration right now. I think we can use some people to look up to, people who encourage you rather than call you poor, lazy and unmotivated.

Besides, these are gems in this book and gems never get old.

I am left wondering who the mentors were for the child versions of the current Republican leadership and those who would be president. Given their utter display of heartlessness, it is hard to believe that any of them had any of the types of role models explored in Washington’s book. Maybe they should read it. It’s probably too late for them but maybe they could learn something about helping someone else.

Buy the book. Or for the price of postage, you can have my copy.

A Hand To Guide Me: Inspiring Personal Stories by Denzel Washington
Legends and Leaders Celebrate The People Who Shaped Their Lives
272 pages
Meredith Books
Des Moines, Iowa
Copyright (c) 2006 by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America


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