When my students, like most of us, occasionally fall into dismay and discouragement, I always hope they will soon be able to see the river of good thoughts that’s constantly flowing inside them. There is, indeed, a river there, and in all of us, and it has more rousing and optimistic ideas than we could ever count. It flows from somewhere or nowhere in its relentless manner, and the only way we don’t notice it is by simply turning away and noticing the pessimistic river instead – and that’s a steady and persuasive one, for sure. It’s easy for kids, in their sometimes snarled and frenzied lives, to be spellbound by the flow of negative, downbeat, disapproving, and downright depressing news and thoughts that pour past them, which is probably why I try to select books to read in class that will bring a brighter view. I don’t mean that I avoid books that show the certainty of sorrow in human life, just that I look for books that also show the strength and inspiration that can come with, and even be created by, the sorrow. There is a river I love in great books – a river that carries light for the darkness and quiet confidence for the future – and those are the books that can be the creators of new life for young students, bringing a stream of stirring ideas that any teenager can make use of. Those are the books, too, that can turn the students back to the good river of hopeful thoughts that’s always with us all, if we could only turn and see it.
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