I picked up a recent issue of the Reader’s Digest and I could not stop reading. In one day, and after 154 pages, I learned the most interesting facts, was inspired by the stories of ordinary Americans, and felt myself laughing underneath my breath at some funny jokes.
Did you know that German Chocolate Cake was invented in America by a man named Sam German? I didn’t. How about the fact that each unpopped kernel of popcorn has one drop of water inside? Still seems impossible to me.
I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my late grandfather Abram. Each morning he had his cup of coffee, a pile of toast and each month, a new issue of the Reader’s Digest. The family magazine was a family favorite. It makes sense that grandpa liked this publication. He was a humble man. When he told stories, they were just like the ones in the pages of the magazine, impossible to believe, funny and typically American.
Grandpa Abram was a World War II veteran. He was a Seabee in the US Navy. Like many others of the Greatest Generation, grandpa was mostly quiet about his time in the service. What my three brothers and I know about his years in the war are regulated to the colorful stories he told us during after school visits. They included shark attacks and daring escapes climbing coconut trees in far away islands.
Reading through a current issue of the Digest, I came across a famous World War II photo by Joe Rosenthal. You know it. The one with four soldiers erecting an American flag at the Battle of Iwo Jima. Seeing it draws a sense of patriotism and that’s the feeling I get when I read this warm and familiar publication.
Words draw emotions and feelings. They also change minds and help us understand ideas. One can argue that the current generation is losing out on these experiences. We live in the 140 characters or less generation. Well, the Reader’s Digest is only 154 pages. It has big font, plenty of illustrations and it’s probably the smallest publication on newsstands.
I challenge anyone under 25 years of age to pick up a copy of this publication. You don’t have to read it from cover to cover. Start in my favorite section: Laughter, The Best Medicine. It’s a great way to get sucked into reading.
One more fun fact I learned from reading. Did you know that Franklin D. Roosevelt, the US President during my grandpa’s military service, was so bored with mystery novels during the 1930s that he inspired a series of mysteries titled The President’s Mystery Story? I didn’t know. The book version of the stories later became a movie, giving President Roosevelt the distinction of being the only American President with a film-writing credit while in office.
What I do know is that Grandpa Abram loved telling us stories. The kind that were probably only half true and full excitement.
He also loved the Reader’s Digest and so do I.