People Aren’t Adjectives and Me Before You

I struggled to find what I wanted to say about Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. While it is an emotionally gripping story, a few things bothered me about certain parts that tainted my experience. But I know this is such an important book, one that I think everyone should read, and I didn’t want to sway people away from it because of a few structural things. I could not figure out how to balance my true thoughts with the emotional resonance.

As I pulled together my notes for my review, I heard about the tragedy in Orlando. That has made this review much easier to write – because it’s not a review anymore. It is a symbol that highlights something that deeply hurts me every time I see it happen. Like when I saw it happen in Orlando.

In our attempt to understand other people, we give them labels. Words. Nouns and Adjectives made up of the same 26 letters that are somehow supposed to explain everything about everything. But that’s a lot to expect from words.

And that’s so little to expect from other people.

As soon as we assign words to people, we look at them with the filter we associate with that word. Man. Woman. Single. Married. Gay. Straight. Redhead. Blonde. Democrat. Republican. Quadriplegic. Mother. Outcast. Religious. Introvert. Don’t you feel something different with each of these words?

We’re turning people into piles of words that are no more human than the page they’re written on or the air through which they are spoken. We instantly remove their humanity. That’s what happened with Will Traynor in Me Before You. That’s what happened in Orlando.

We will never fully understand anyone else. It’s impossible to truly walk a mile in someone else’s shoes because you haven’t walked all the miles they have. That’s why books like Me Before You are so important. This story shows you the struggles of daily life for someone who is a quadriplegic through the eyes of someone who is not. You can see the misunderstanding. You can see how much we don’t understand someone else’s life who’s different from our own.

Me Before You so eloquently explains how, by limiting a person to a single word, we are removing every other part of their being. You can load a pile of words on them and still not be able to adequately describe them.

This is a beautiful thing.

How blessed are we that we can literally meet ten different people every day who have a different story for the rest of our lives and never repeat the same story twice! The only way to even attempt this, though, is to keep the door open. Don’t meet someone, find the first adjective or noun that works for them, then shut the door and nail a sign to the door with that word. Keep finding new words. Keep the door open and allow the words to flow freely in and out. You’ll learn more about them. You’ll also learn more about yourself.

Hate almost always comes from a lack of understanding. The way past hate is to stop thinking of people as words, but as people. You can’t love a word the same way you can love a person.

My heart and prayers go out to every single person affected by the tragedy in Orlando. Love will win. And you are loved.


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