Dear Mr. Beah,
The sky is blue. This is a fact that everyone knows, accepts is true, and then ignores. There is unimaginable violence occurring in Africa. Unfortunately, this is another fact that everyone knows, accepts is true, and then ignores. As much as I hate to say it, I was one of those people who knew that many were suffering, but I would always put that fact on the back burner once I changed the television channel. I could always sympathize for the victims in Africa, but I could never empathize with them until I read your book A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Your book cracked open my heart, opened my eyes to the strength of the human soul, and gave me a new compassion for every human.
Although my safe and comfy life in Iowa is the antithesis of your life in Sierra Leone, your detailed accounts of the horrifying events you had experienced made me feel like I was right there with you, all the way from Mattru Jong to New York City. At the beginning of the book, I felt like you and I were in the same situation: you had seen others who had been in the war, but you did not quite understand what had happened to them until you experienced it for yourself. The same could be said for me. I had heard of terrible violence through the news but I did not understand the significance of it until I read your book. In addition, I was surprised to find out how normal of a kid you and your friends were before the war. When you described hanging out with your friends, listening to music, and dancing, I could relate. From that point on, every time I opened the book, I was Ishmael Beah. Through each and every hardship you described, I would ask myself what I would do in that situation, how I would feel about myself, and what would be my motivation to keep on living. Because of this, I learned that each person has a story, a reason why they are the way they are, and not one person has the right to assume anything about someone else until he or she has felt and experienced the other's life.
Your book not only made me a more compassionate and empathetic person, but it also inspired me to be stronger. What you have done with your life is truly remarkable and shows how immensely strong the human soul is. You were ripped of your childhood and forced to witness the murder of your family, war, dismembered bodies, and countless other atrocities. But what is so inspiring about you is that you forgave yourself, and made the decision to change. You are an extraordinarily wonderful human being, so I could only imagine how you felt, and how difficult it was to forgive yourself. And I am so thankful you did because if you could do that, then I knew that I could change and overcome any obstacle that I came across in my life.
The sky is blue, people are suffering, and you changed my life: these are all facts. Since reading your book, the fact that innocent people are being murdered and living in horror does not just roll by me any longer. I feel, to a certain degree, that I have lived your hardship, and I understand how difficult many people's lives are. I want to help, and make the world a better place. I wish everyone would read your book because your powerful message will captivate the heart of every reader and will inspire compassion, strength, and empathy in every soul, like it did in mine.
You are a remarkable person, and I cannot begin to thank you enough for how your life story has forever changed mine.