When I was much younger, I thought of February simply as the shortest month of the year, a month at the end of winter, marking time in anticipation of spring. But there is quite a bit more to this month.
Last week we observed Valentine’s Day. It is a time for celebrating being with the people you care about, and a time for lots of candy. But here is a second take on Valentine’s Day – a time for self improvement.
Now, bear with me on this. First, let me state that many of us need an excuse to continue any self-improvement projects we may have begun in early January. More importantly, it is laudable for us to work towards improving ourselves, and thinking of the people important to us is an impetus for this. But self-improvement can be a tall order – where to start? Where to find additional inspiration? The library, of course!
Among the most popular items in the library collection are books of self-help and improvement. Topics range from interpersonal relations and self-motivation to health & wellness and financial success. To find these, access the library catalog at http://library.cityofdenton.com and select “subject” or “keyword” from the dropdown menu next to the search box. Relevant subjects include, but are certainly not limited to, Interpersonal relations , Self Help , Self Care – Health , and Conduct of Life . These will lead you to lists of other, similar subjects or lists of items. And just as you can surf the Internet, you can surf the catalog. Each record for a book, CD, DVD, etc. contains several links to other, similar, subjects (which lead you to other, similar items.) At the bottom of the page are suggestions of other things you might find interesting and useful.
The subject of self-improvement and inspiration brings me to one of the important things we commemorate in February – the birth of one of the greatest self-made men in American history.
Frederick Douglass was born in Maryland in February, 1818 (although in some of his writings he supposed, from the evidence available to him, that he had been born in 1817.*) He learned to read, despite being a slave. He engendered the trust that allowed him to learn and practice a trade while he was still a slave. He also suffered severe beatings at the hands of a meaner master, but these did not destroy, and in fact emboldened, his defiance. He plotted an escape, which was betrayed. But instead of accepting this fate, he later planned another escape. On September 3, 1838, he made his way to Philadelphia and then New York.
Simply being free wasn’t enough for Douglass. He lent his talents to the Abolitionist movement. However, “His white colleagues treated him as a spectacle or a symbol rather than a person….”** Some felt that audiences would not believe a man so eloquent and who had educated himself to such an extent had ever been a slave. But he overcame this perception, and through his speeches, writings, and actions made himself a leader in the struggle for abolition and civil rights.
Recently my colleague Chuck Voellinger, in honor of Black History Month, posted to this blog a piece about the Frederick Douglass school here in Denton. I encourage you to look at that post from February 8. And I encourage you to explore items about Frederick Douglass, the Abolition Movement, and the Civil Rights Movement that are available at the Denton Public Library.
* Douglass, Frederick, Autobiographies, Library of America, 1994 pp. 140, 476
** Stauffer, John, Giants: the Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, Twelve, 2008 p. 89