Lessons learned from a boy wizard

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Magen M. Reeves
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
I have always been an avid reader. My grandmother started teaching me to love reading early in my life. She would spend countless hours reading aloud to me and encouraged me to find a love in literature. My grandfather-her husband- and my mother are both illiterate. My grandmother knew if I didn't learn from her, I never would.

I grew up in a home with my mother, father and three siblings. We were very poor. My family was the outcast of the small town we lived in and I hardly had any friends. My parents fought constantly and I was left to raise my three siblings because I was the oldest child. I remember feeling trapped and alone. I searched to find a way to cope with my loneliness.

So I read books. Thousands and thousands of books.

I can remember reading everything I could get my hands on. I read books from the school's library and the public library in town.

I read before school, I read during school. I read at recess and I read at lunch. I read at home and I read into the hours of the night.

Then my parents got divorced and we moved from Utah to California.

So here I was, an 11-year-old kid, in a new house in a new town in a new state. My father worked construction several hours away and was never home. I had arrived in the middle of a break in the school year and by the time school started again, the year was almost over. I had no friends and no ability to make any. I was very alone.

One night, I decided to pick up "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" and read for hours and hours that night.

That book changed my life.

I began my journey with the boy wizard as many fans do; on the first page of the first book.

Harry was 11. I was 11. Harry was desperate to change his horrible life. And so was I.
In the book, Harry meets several characters who teach him about life, love and himself.

And that's what the book taught me.

I learned how to be a better person from a story written about a boy wizard, Harry Potter. Author J.K. Rowling wrote well-rounded, three-dimensional characters of varying races, ages and genders in her story about the magical world of witches and wizards. They taught me more about how to be a good person than anyone else ever had at that time.

Rowling made it a point in her books to teach that it is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. The decision to join the Air Force resembles that for me. As a child and then as I teenager, I was the go nowhere, do nothing type. I had potential but no direction. I could have chosen to stay in my small town where I grew up and work a menial job that I hated. Instead I decided that the time had come for me to do better than what I had. I wanted so much more than what my small town had to offer.

It may seem silly, but Harry's journey to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is what prompted me to join the Air Force. I recognized that to change my life, I had to change my surroundings. To change my life, I needed to be in an environment where I could learn and be encouraged to do so, which is what the Air Force is giving me now.

I joined the Air Force Nov. 4, 2014. I rode the bus to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, like so many other trainees do with my backpack clutched to my chest, a copy of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" tucked inside.

I carried the lessons I learned from those books with me into the Air Force. Even today, I have copies of several of the books on my desk in the 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs office.

I am almost 25 now and I am just as in love with the "Harry Potter" books as I was when I was a little girl. For me, the characters within the books have shaped who I am as a person.

"Harry Potter" taught me that boys and girls can be friends and that men and women can be equals. Growing up in a troubled household, these were lessons I thought was impossible. I also learned to be less inclusive, racist and entitled.

I learned that having a family is important. It's not necessarily the family you are born into, but the family that you choose. It's been over a decade since my mother, father, brothers and sister have been under the same roof as I have. This was something I struggled with growing up; the feeling of being abandoned. Harry struggled with a similar situation as well. Harry found his family and friends and teachers at Hogwarts. I have had to build mine the same way.

I feel that if I had never been transported to Harry's magical world through reading, I would have been a lonely little girl for much longer.

I have always encouraged friends and family to find a way to love reading.

I even introduced "Harry Potter" to the woman who introduced me to the world I love; my grandmother, and she loves it too.