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Inclusivity

Ever wish you could read someone’s mind? At the Human Library in Denmark, you can.

human library
Photo by Atul Vinayak on Unsplash

A library with a twist, that gives insight into the human mind in all its many forms.

A library is a place where everyone is welcome. It's a safe haven where strangers can peacefully come together, challenge their perspectives and leave having learned something new.

Twenty-one years ago, nonviolence activist and journalist Ronni Abergel decided to expand on this idea when he first created the Human Library. The nonprofit organization was designed to challenge prejudice and stereotypes by encouraging a more empathetic type of literacy.

Skip to Chapter 2021, and the Human Library is now is more than just a concept. It's a movement for change.


"I had a theory that it could work because the library is one of the few places in our community where everyone is welcome, whether you're rich or poor, homeless or living in a castle, professor or illiterate," Abergel told CNN in a recent interview. "It's truly the most inclusive institution in our time."

The concept was simple: there would still be readers and books. Only at this library, the "books" would be often stigmatized or socially unconventional people. And the "readers" would come in with specific questions, ready to listen intently to the story each "book" holds.

Sticking to library language, they even have "books of the month." The last winner was a Holocaust survivor who now spends her time traveling between the Netherlands and California.

The book titles are decidedly generic. "Transgender," "Disabled" or "Homeless." Normally this type of labeling is problematic, identifying one small aspect of a person's experience as their defining characteristic. But this is exactly what helps start a meaningful conversation and bring awareness to certain automatic judgments we all have.

With only 30 minutes allotted, conversations get very personal very fast. Conservative Christians discuss faith with Muslims. Black activists meet with Trump supporters. Anti-vaxxers talk with pro-vaxxers. Through intimate, honest and heartfelt conversation, both readers and books gain closeness, understanding that at the end of the day, beyond conflicting societal structures and different walks of life, they are each looking at a human being sitting across from them.

Katy Jon Went, one of the Human Library's coordinators in the United Kingdom, offers insight on how the Human Library helps us evolve past our own human nature:

"At the end of the day, the rest of the world sees us as something else before it sees us as humans. So even if we see ourselves as human, the world sees us first as trans, black or disabled. But if the world sees me first as those things, it is probably also how I see others. It is about recognizing the other aspects of being human: we are imperfect, we make mistakes, we do make judgements and we have unconscious biases."

In challenging perspectives through peaceful discourse, we are able to connect beyond our previous limitations. That is what makes the Human Library so powerful. And the effects are more than psychosomatic. A recent study in April indicated that the reading sessions provided a positive impact on both reader and book in a lasting way, as participants were able to vividly recall their experience months after the initial session.

We don't need a study to know that when we are emotionally affected by something—or someone—it sticks with us. When we are moved, we are changed.

Since its inception, the Human Library has done nothing but expand. There are now several locations that have popped up across the United States. When COVID-19 hit, reading sessions were available worldwide via Zoom. Corporations such as Microsoft have incorporated the Human Library into their diversity training. A new app is currently being developed where readers can search a desired book topic on their smartphone.

Interested in becoming a book? The Human Library is always looking to add to its collection. You can find out more about getting "published" at the organization's website.

In a time where hate and prejudice continue to divide us, perhaps radical change comes through the simple act of just listening.

All images provided by Kat Chao

A photo of Kat and her mom, and a bowl of her mom's famous curry

True

Whether it’s the mac n’ cheese that reminds you of simpler times, or the exotic spiced chicken recipe you acquired from your travels, every meal tells a story.

This rings especially true for people whose families immigrate to different countries to start a new life. Immigrant parents often not only save every penny, but spend most of their time away working in order to build a future for their children. Each comfort meal they manage to provide their kids in the very few spare hours they have tells the story of love and sacrifice.

For Kat Chao, that meal was her mother’s Korean curry.

korean foodA photo of baby Kat and her mom and dad

Growing up, Kat’s mom worked weekends to support her family. But that didn’t stop her from waking up Saturday morning to dice up some beef and fresh veggies and throw them into a large pot so that Kat’s dad could heat it up and serve it with some rice to her and her brothers later.

Curry was a quick, easy and inexpensive way to feed a full house, but it served more than just practical purposes. As Kat would wake up to the enticing aroma, she was reminded that her mom was always taking care of her, even if she couldn’t physically be there.

koran curryYUM

As Kat grew a little older, her attitude towards her mother’s curry shifted. Instead of looking forward to it, she would “roll her eyes at it,” as is customary of the rebellious teen. Those less-than-positive feelings were only exacerbated by the media constantly labeling carbs, therefore rice, as “bad.” As a kid who struggled with weight, her comfort food became a source of discomfort.

But as an adult, and now a mom herself, Kat has reached a full circle moment.

korean recipes, albertsonsKat, all grown up with her own familiy

As she makes her own kids the exact same curry dish (okay, maybe a leaner cut of beef, and organic veggies…but otherwise exactly the same!) Kat finds a whole new appreciation for the recipe, knowing how hard her mom worked to even make it happen.

Kat was lucky to have grown up with a meal to look forward to each night. Other kids aren’t so lucky. 1 in 8 kids currently experience food insecurity in the United States. But there’s an opportunity to decrease those numbers.

For every O Organics product you purchase, the company will donate a meal to someone in need through the Albertsons Companies Foundation—for up to a total of 28 million meals.

Is there a dish from your childhood that you’ve longed to rekindle with? You could do like Kat does and give it an O Organic twist. Luckily, the O Organics brand has a wide array of affordable ingredients, so creating healthy swaps is easier than ever. Plus, you can provide nourishment to another family at the same time.

Just think—the next meal you prepare could make all the difference to someone else. If every meal tells a story, that’s certainly a story worth telling.

A couple sleeping and Jordan Howlett sharing sleep facts

Jordan Howlett recently blew people’s minds with a TikTok video where he explained why you could learn a lot about a person based on the side of the bed they prefer. Jordan is a popular TikTok creator with nearly 11 million followers who shares candid monologues, reactions, stories, life hacks and intriguing fast food secrets.

His video was a response to TikTok users Angelina & Skyler, who confessed they don’t usually pick a side of the bed.

(FYI: Your side is determined from the perspective of laying in bed. For example, sleeping on the left side means that your partner would sleep to your right.)

Howlett responded to their video by explaining why the side you choose is so important. “Psychologically speaking, humans will pick a side of the bed due to attitude towards work, personality and income,” he says.

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