Monday, March 7, 2011

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years


I read books much like a crane captures his dinner. He flies low across the lake then dives headlong and deep once he spies something worth catching. After hovering high over A Million Miles in a Thousand Years for weeks with no commitment, I gifted it to a friend who really wanted it. At Christmas time, she sent it back! No, not a return. A re-gifting, of sorts, with an attached note saying she enjoyed the book so much she wanted me to borrow it. And read it. “But,” she concluded, “You don’t have to read it all.” She knows me. If she says it’s my turn to read, I’ll take my turn.

I’m glad I did.

When Blue Like Jazz came out, Donald Miller’s mega-hit memoir, I tried like crazy to love the book all my friends couldn’t live without. I couldn’t get past the first few chapters. But I’m not the same girl I was then. Nor is Donald the same guy.

I took in every word on every page of Million Miles and celebrated life. His. Mine. Even yours. For in the span of these pages, beginning to end, Donald moved from being an “incidental memoirist” to becoming a “deliberate mentor.” He writes his journey of transformation in a way that brings me up close to his story and connects me with my own, inviting me into something more, as a good mentor would.

Donald’s wit and delivery make me laugh. Yet I’m struck by the depth of insight he seems to speak over his shoulder while engaging with the story unfolding in front of him. He sees. And as he sees, he ascribes meaning to the life he finds. Not as an observer, but as a witness. He allows himself to enter fully into a scene and be affected by it. Then he testifies to the Truth in it.

He describes times when he would rather stay on the couch than stand up to choose a better life, a better story. But varying incidences bring him into the company of some outstanding people. People who see him. People who enter into his story and affect his character arc. He embraces their influence and receives their insight. They guide him into positive turns and help him to avoid negative ones.

In a scene toward the end of the book, Donald describes kayaking with his friends up the Jervis inlet in British Columbia. A mile-wide inlet with cliffs on either side, “the stone faces of the mountains come into the water like walls.” They had been up since before dawn, stopped to spend the day with an unexpected friend and found themselves paddling through the hardest part of their journey in the pitch of night. “If it weren’t for the other guys in the kayaks, I would have quit that night. . . . I would have lay down in my hatch and slept and drifted out with the tide.”

But he didn’t quit. Not on his friends. Not on his life. He responded to his mentors, and he’s living a better story because of it. Come to think of it, so am I.


To read more from Donald Miller and to find out how to GET A FREE PAPERBACK COPY OF A MILLION MILES THAT JUST RELEASED, visit http://donmilleris.com/.

To see the impact of his transformation, visit http://thementoringproject.org/. They’re looking for summer interns!

To consider the impact of your story, give a look:

What story are you telling? from Rhetorik Creative on Vimeo.

2 comments:

Garrett said...

Robin,
I loved this book just as much as you did. While i did enjoy blue like jazz, i am a bigger donald miller fan because of A million miles. Not often do we find authors who submit themselves to the experience as much as Donald does here. The only other books i can think of are Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin and Over The Underpass by Mike Jakowski.

Thoroughly enjoyed your review!

Blessings,
Garrett

Robin Stanley said...

Hey Garrett,
Thanks for visiting and for leaving your thoughts behind. I think I would come to Blue Like JAzz with different eyes now after getting to know Donald better. Yes, he sure does submit himself. It's a great example of a "heart book." Many authors push too soon for what they think is their "heart book," when, really, it hasn't yet been fully written. Donald didn't set out to write a heart book with BLUE. He's a writer. He wrote. What he wrote happened to sell crazy amounts. Meanwhile, God began writing Donald's heart book. I'm glad he waited.

Blessings to you and your precious family!

Robin