So I Hugged a Book Today by Sara Rendell

by Mark Chmiel

I am not sure why, but when I finished reading The Book of Mev, I hugged it.

Maybe my body wanted to be closer to tangible truth.

Maybe I was trying to express my gratitude to Mev and Dr. Chmiel for providing me with an example of pure love; not just in their intertwined spider-web of each other, but also in the way they felt with and fought for the poor.

Maybe I needed to acknowledge that The Book of Mev is more than a book of something; it breathes, cries, moans, and laughs.

I think my hug was a “thank you” for Dr. Chmiel’s honesty in revealing Mev and for Mev’s honesty in her face, gestures, words, and vitality. . . A thank you for a candid depiction of what grief is and does; a thank you for a view of my professor, who seems to draw from an internal fountain of love and understanding, as a human being. A view of him not always knowing how to help Mev or even himself, and not finding the strength to breathe in and out—to be serene while riding a malfunctioning roller coaster.

I think I hugged the book because it is Dr. Chmiel’s choice to transcend his suffering—so unfair, vicious, brutal . . . etc. and to reach out to people as a catalyst for the recognition of human suffering.

I think it was because The Book of Mev was already hugging me that I hugged back.

–Sara was a sophomore at Saint Louis University when she took Social Justice with me and shared this  response. She is  now in her first year at Penn Medical School in Philadelphia.

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