The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog is the most interesting and readable book I have ever run across in mental health (with the exception of Mary Pipher's books, I guess). In this book, Bruce Perry, child psychiatrist, focuses on how trauma changes the functioning of the brain and disrupts normal development in dramatic ways. His case studies include the Branch Davidian children who left the Waco compound before the fire as well as other children who have been traumatized in ways that are, sadly, "normal." I was especially touched, though, by his passionate belief that trauma is best healed in loving, appropriately nurturing relationships, ie., "in community." Although this book's focus is on children, it helped me think in new and creative ways about the role of trauma in adult dysfunction and family dynamics.
I bought Take This Bread by Sara Miles because a reviewer said the author reminded her of Anne Lamott (so, of course, I bought the book the next day!) I'm such a sucker! Actually, though, I can see the comparison--Miles does a beautiful job of telling stories and then gleaning the wisdom out of them. Here's the plot-line: Miles is a left-wing revolutionary journalist who is also a chef, an atheist and a lesbian. Her spiritual quest eventually takes her into an Episcopalian church that is dedicated to offering the eucharist to all. She has a mystical experience with Jesus through the bread and the wine, then begins a food pantry to feed the hungry in the neighborhood surrounding the church. Her stories reflect on the importance of sharing food in spiritual community, the sometimes painful intersection of social ministry and established church, the difficulties of relationships across socioeconomic and cultural lines, and what it means that the gospel is for everyone. Here is one paragraph she writes about community and the food pantry:
" . . . It meant mistakes, sure, but also the opening up of genuine
participation to all kinds of people. We had homeless guys and women with
missing teeth and a couple who only spoke Tagalog come join us; a transsexual
with a thick Bronx accent, some teenagers, an ancient Greek woman from across
the street, and a dapper man from St. Gregory's choir who came and played the
accordion during the pantry. They were all people who, like me, had come
to get fed but had stayed to help out. Who, like me, took that bread and
got changed. We were all converting: turning into new people as we
rubbed up against one another."