Written by Barb Powell
Illustrations by Irene Dvoraczky Bell
Thanks to J.K. Rowling’s captivating tale of a young wizard and his friends, new words have entered the English language lexicon –– muggle, Hogwarts, Quidditch, even Harry Potter. But this amazing seven-book tale of the boy with the lightning bolt scar also contains universal life lessons. Here are a few of them.
(*muggle: a non-magic person; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling) NOTE: This edition of “Your Life, Better” is a departure from the usual format. The illustrations and text speak to all ages, especially to those who grew up with Harry Potter. Share this special “Your Life, Better” with those you love.
You can count on your close friends. Trust them.
As Harry, Ron, and Hermione learn, a friend speaks the truth, even when you don’t necessarily want to hear it. Friends stand with you.
A mentor teaches you life lessons. But eventually, you have to stand on your own two feet.
Many adult wizards mentor Harry Potter, helping him grow into adulthood. We, too, learn from our mentors, cherishing their wisdom as we grow into the fully human beings that God intends us to be.
No person is a waste of space. Believe in yourself.
One theme in the Harry Potter series is the inherent value of every individual. Each person on this good earth is a precious and blessed gift, created in the image of God.
The capacity for compassion and justice provides a moral compass for a well-lived life.
Throughout J.K. Rowling’s books, the protagonists show compassion for others and a sense of a just world. Their stories are filled with divine pauses as they stop to help a friend, fight for another’s rights, or encourage each other. So, too, in life, when we treat others justly and with compassion, our faith journeys are filled with renewal and joy.
"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we are, far more than our abilities." –– Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling makes the point that it is not how you are born, but how you live that determines the kind of person you are. No matter the circumstances of our birth, or the abilities that we are blessed with, the decisions we make determine our character. The simple choices we make day in and day out give evidence of our heart.
All creatures are equal in the sight of God, and should be treated with respect and dignity.
Many of Harry's friends are shunned by their world for a variety of reasons. Even when society teaches him differently, Harry treats everyone with dignity and respect. So, too, should we.
Differences exist between peoples. But we still can work together.
Harry and his friends learn that each creature, wizard and muggle they encounter has his or her own set of problems and gifts, making each one unique, but also more similar than any of them initially can imagine. The world of magical creatures is a diverse and wondrous place, and Harry learns that all should be welcome. So, too, in our diverse and wondrous world, we all are welcome at God’s table.
Hate and rumor create divides, and wounds that don’t always heal. Be careful what you listen to and spread around.
In the books, Harry learns of a prejudice by some wizards against muggles and wizards not born of "pure blood." J.K. Rowling's exploration of the abuse of and discrimination against muggles and "mudblood" wizards allows even the youngest readers to contemplate the effects of racism; and to learn that it is wrong to hate, discriminate against others, and spread rumors.
Work for the common good. Imagine what’s possible.
Harry and his friends sacrifice much for the common good. Inspired by that, an international group of teens and young adults, called the Harry Potter Alliance in 2010 raised enough money to send five chartered planes filled with medical supplies to earthquake-torn Haiti. Today, HPA continues to work for numerous causes. Miracles happen when we imagine what’s possible!
We are all flawed. That doesn’t make us bad.
The characters created by J. K. Rowling in the Harry Potter series are flawed people who make mistakes. The flaws don’t make the person, but they do make us human. It is how we live with those flaws and still do the right thing that matters.
Don't judge a book –– or a person –– by its cover.
Built up in the books as the quintessential baddy, Severus Snape is not a nice person. But his journey of redemption and transformative love is a surprising major theme of the final book. Who do you know whose "cover" may be different than the soul within?
Redemption is always possible. There always is hope.
Many of the characters in Harry Potter find redemption. Even the wicked Voldemort is offered a chance, though he scoffs at it. In our darkest hour, there is the hope of redemption and rediscovering God’s love, if we only will make the choice.
It gets better.
J.K. Rowling has said that she has always thought of the great wizard Albus Dumbledore as gay. Dumbledore provides hope for LGBTQ youth and young adults in a society that too often permits ridicule and abuse based on sexual orientation. For young wizards and muggles alike, it gets better. God’s love is all around us.
God speaks in many, varied ways ... are we listening?
The basic tenets of J. K. Rowling’s incredible story are Christian. And Buddhist. And Muslim. And Jewish. Though the story is set in a hidden world where wizard magic exists, the lessons it reveals are valid to all persons of faith. Friendship. Love. Living with integrity. Even in the muggle world, a certain type of “magic” exists. Indeed, God is still speaking.
The true magic of our universe, and the one that is older, deeper and more powerful than all others, is love. Love conquers all.
Every day, in ways large and small, we give and receive love, and feel the touch of God’s love in our lives and our world. It is by our small acts of loving one another that we glimpse the divine on earth.