I venture to say most reader and writers when thinking about genre, first consider mystery, memoir, fiction and non-fiction, and give very little thought to Self -help books. Yet, year after year Self-help books are often on best-seller lists, and actually provide what they claim - inspirational guidance, motivation and help.
Rudyard Kipling, Marjorie Holmes and Hugh Prather. What do they have in common, you may ask ? Each in their way were self help writers; They were also favorites of my brother, Walt Cooney. From the time my brother was a little boy our mother read to him over and over again Rudyard Kipling's great poem, IF
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes or loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it ,
And - which is more- you'll be a Man, my son!
Walt knew this poem well, and when caught in a challenging situation often recounted it to help guide his path, and bolster his spirit.
In 1974 when I was to take an overseas flight to London with my very dear and long time friend, Mary Kay , and was scared beyond measure to fly such a long distance and be away from home for three months, my brother gave me a book he came across titled, I've Got to Talk to Somebody God by Marjorie Holmes. He inscribed it
To my sis, Kathy on her 1st trip abroad. Luv, Walt. Kathy, read 115 when you're on the airplane. Love you always
I can honestly tell you, I read page 115 many times over during that flight, and indeed was greatly comforted . I at times still read it today:
The Lord is my friend and my companion. How can I ever be lonely so long as he is with me? He walks along a country road with me and opens my senses to loveliness never noticed before; The glitter of gravel beneath my feet, a tangle of sun-sweet grasses, a dust colored toad - all remarkable and fresh. He accompanies me along the busy street (or flying across the ocean -Walt's words). I am happy and at ease, for my Lord is also there.
In the early 1980's when Walt lived in Arizona, working for a carpet company and was faced with the things of life many young people face, he read a book that would become one of his favorites , Notes to Myself - My Struggle to Become a Person by Hugh Prather. I was unfamiliar with the book then , but knowing how much I enjoyed reading, Walt was excited to share with me a particular passage that moved his spirit:
As I look back on my life, one of the most constant and powerful things I have experienced within myself is the desire to be more than I am at the moment - an unwillingness to let myself remain where I am- a desire to increase the boundaries of myself- a desire to do more, learn more, express more- a desire to grow-improve, accomplish ,expand. I used to interpret this inner push as meaning that there was some one thing out there I wanted to do or be or have. And I have spent too much of my life trying to find it. But now I know that this energy within me is seeking more than the mate or the profession or the religion, more even than pleasure or power or meaning . It is seeking out more of me; or better, it is, thank God, flushing out more of me.
My brother was born September 4, 1954. Today would be his 59th birthday. He was a much wanted, and loved baby boy with bright blue eyes, and blond hair. Named after his maternal grandfather, Walter. Mother wanted Ronald, after our father, for his middle name, but dad didn't much like the name Ronald at the time, so they settled on Rod, a name starting with the letter R, as in Ronald. Walt came into this world with high energy and great love of life. By all accounts he was a happy and good fellow.
While Walt wasn't a recreational reader of novels , I doubt many of his friends, or family knew he was a reader of Self help, inspirational, and educational books, as he was always looking to grow and improve himself, or share something that might be helpful to someone else, like me .
I don't know what prompted Marjorie Holmes or Hugh Prather to write, I'm just glad they did. I didn't know their books until my brother shared them with me all those years ago, books that remain fresh in my memory, books that keep us connected, even though he's gone from this earth. That's the power of the written word, and the impact they can have .
*** Info on how to write a self help book
In Loving Memory
Walter R. Cooney
Sept. 4, 1954 - May 30, 2010