Typically, when I read nonfiction, it's going to be a business-ish, marketing, "here's how to think better at work" type of book. Books by the Heath brothers, technology inspiration books like Velocity by Ajaz Ahmed or even general books on wisdom (like this one written by my boss). When I skew from this category of book, it's for a fiction book.
Then, a couple of months ago, I was invited to be part of the Hope Runs book launch and received a free copy to read. The book is written by Claire Diaz-Ortiz of "Twitter for Good" fame. She had been instrumental in getting the pope on Twitter and I have had the opportunity to hear her speak a couple of times at the NRB Conference in Nashville last spring. That alone piqued my interest. Combine that with the fact the book was co-written by a boy named Sammy (now an adult) she met in Kenya (and the running theme), I wanted to dive into this book.
I took a brief hiatus to speed read Decisive for our DeMoss Book Club but immediately jumped back into this book. It was a quick read and much more inspiring than anything I expected.
The storytelling in this book is interesting. For many books that I've read that are co-authored (like Dan and Chip Heath's books), the book is written in one consistent voice. This book does it a little different. Each chapter is written individually by Claire and then another by Sammy. They both tell the same story but from their own individual points of view. You read about how Claire shows up at an orphanage in Kenya to live and help for a year from Claire's point of view, following the struggles and the culture shock that followed. Then the following chapter will show that same story from Sammy's point-of-view, how these two women from the US came and helped them out.
To me, Sammy's side of the story really hit home. (Spoiler...sort of) Sammy eventually comes to the US to finish his last three years of high school on a scholarship and talks about all of the little things that seem normal to us are huge lifestyle adjustments for him. When I ran college track, we had a LOT of international teammates, many of my distance teammates from Kenya. Hearing Sammy's point-of-view on the culture shock of coming over here made me more empathetic - and more grateful - for my teammates at Western. They made huge life shifts and probably had a harder time transitioning than they ever let on. However, those guys were the happiest people I think I ever knew in college.
I also admired the selflessness of Claire and her friend Lara throughout the entirety of the story. Nothing that they did for Sammy (or any of the children in the orphanage he lived in) was convenient. With their backgrounds and education levels, it would have been far easier for them to find something more "normal" to do here in the States. However, they dedicated a lot of energy, time and time to themselves to give an opportunity to someone else to make a life better for themselves.
Real servant leadership like I saw in this book is rarely convenient. It means putting our own wants, desires or matters of convenience to the side in the interest of someone that isn't us. As I read Claire and Lara's story, I was reminded that this type of leadership and change comes at a cost. I also saw that it can be incredibly rewarding - though the reward shouldn't be our motivation to help. I loved Sammy's perspective on this:
"Helping should not be about how it makes me feel."
I couldn't recommend this book enough. If you want to be taken out of your comfortable bubble and see another cultural perspective, it's worth the time to read. You can check it out here.
What book should I read next?