It would be all to easy to write a book on how Harry Potter has influenced lives all around the world, and I am certainly no exception. So intense are the lessons both overt and covert within the pages that even after 20 years since their release (happy birthday Harry, Ron, Hermione, and all the others), each reading leaves me floored by what sticks out with that go around. So powerful is this story, I have never encountered a single person who has read them that has come away disliking them. I fault no one for not becoming a Potterhead, I do fault you for not knowing your House and Patronus… teasing…kind of. Okay, fine I’m not teasing, WE NEED TO KNOW! WE DID OUR WAITING, 20 YEARS OF IT, IN AZKABAN!
Yes, I got that out of my system. Where was I? Ah right, why Harry Potter impacted me as a social worker. As I mentioned, with 7 books, and each one probably breaking a law of physics in density without creating a black hole, it would be nearly impossible to summarize with just one piece(do I sense another trilogy?), but here we go.
- Love, in all its forms, is the strongest force in life or death
Love, from the sacrifice of Harry’s parents (no it’s not a spoiler, it’s been out for 20 years), to the friendship formed, to mentorship and teaching, families by blood or choice, and even the unrequited, love remains the single most powerful moving force to which there is no counterpoint. Even death does not remove it from our lives, it only takes another form. And if love is so powerful that it can combat the single most evil being in the history of that world, then we must offer it unconditionally to those around us regardless of status. It is not up to us to deny love to each other. It doesn’t have to be romantic, it doesn’t have to be the kind of love that means you accept negative things into your life, it means that even compassion is a form of love. And that is the single greatest thing we can do with our lives. Love, and be loved. Don’t just accept whatever love comes your way, because once you realize how much of it there is, don’t keep it contained to anything less than the full force of it, because it is as beautiful as it is fierce.
- No one is beyond help, or loses the right to fair treatment
Rowling in her infinite wisdom carefully points out heavy topics of racism, classism, sexism,ableism, and the like in non-traditional ways. How we see the other types of beings in the Harry Potter treated is a direct commentary of how we treat those within our own lives. She further drives home the point with blood status, privilege and “right” over ability and work. Note, that at no point is race, sex, orientation, or other common social issues we see mentioned, but they are woven within the stories of werewolves, bloodlines, house-elves, goblins, trolls, centaurs, etc. Wand wielding and none alike all have a place and a part to play to open our eyes to what truly matters. Further, regardless of any of those things, we see the very act of treating others with respect as an act of rebellion or ridicule(Have you joined S.P.E.W.?). To never give up on the reality that every being has the potential for goodness is not lost, though it might seem as though Rowling gave us villains to despise without regard: Voldemort, Bellatrix, Umbridge, the Malfoys. In many ways it would be easy to write them off, but what do we see time and time again by people trying to save them? An outreached hand. Dumbledore knew of Tom Riddle/Voldemort’s behavior and actions, yet, even when it would be easy to see him as a lost cause, Dumbledore still tries to reach that boy he first met right before his first downfall. He greets Bellatrix and the Death Eaters up in the tower with courtesy, still explaining how it isn’t too late, it’s never too late. He protects Draco so he still has the choice to come back before he loses a piece of himself. His trust in Snape, and his unfailing courtesy to those who oppose him, even slander his name is a lesson of humanity we could only dream of. Dumbledore saw the transgressions of his youth and their impact, and swore to be the voice of compassion. Of love. Every person who walks into our office, across our path might be the one who needs your hand outstretched. And I promise you, they often aren’t the ones who you don’t want to reach out for.
- Magic is not beyond our reach
While sadly we may never be able to truly do magic as witches and wizards, magic can come in many forms. While most would love spells, brooms, time-turners, what we gain is that regardless of magical ability, the world is filled with magic big and small. We see it every day and just have to take notice. Magic is in growth of a person. Magic is finding yourself in a world you didn’t think you belonged in. Magic is a first kiss, a first love, finding the people who will stand by you consequences be damned. It is in the smile of those you pass by on your walk, of realizing when you’re wrong and making amends. It’s of lasting friendships, and an unexpected laugh. Magic isn’t anti-science, and it’s not unattainable, it’s everywhere around us. See the good, see light instead of darkness. The stars instead of the night.
- Regardless of how you started this life, your choices are what truly matter
We first meet Harry as a baby who was just orphaned, and not again until he’s the boy under the stairs. We learn of Neville’s upbringing by his grandmother after his parents are driven mad protecting others. Draco starts off with everything anyone would imagine they’d want. And Hermione could be any one of us. The sorting hat is the first glimpse of the power of choice rather than destiny. Each choice brings us closer or further from who we want to be. Each choice has consequences, whether they are positive or negative. And sometimes there is no good choice to make. It is easy to disparage those who joined the side of Voldemort but many felt they had no other choice. And we can never truly know what our choice will be until we are faced with the need to make it. You find this often in social work. How can someone become an addict? Why didn’t someone just choose differently? It is the suspension of judgment that we have to do in our profession. That addict might not have had the tools to cope, and as detrimental as it is, it served a purpose for a time that protected them…until it didn’t. When we stop demonizing people, and start looking at choices, past present and future, do we really do our work. Remus Lupin made a choice to leave, to which Harry almost breaks him, but he returns to his family. Was he wrong? Was Harry? Was he working with the best he could at the time?
- Fight for what is right, even if the odds seem insurmountable
There’s nothing fair about Harry’s story. He loses nearly everyone in his life especially parental figures. Despite this, he is a remarkably resilient boy who inspires others to do what’s right, not just what is easy. Facing down an army of masochistic, mad, and bloodthirsty army of Death Eaters, giants, inferi, and others is not something any person wants, yet allowing the world to fall to evil, to tyranny, to fear, to hate is more unacceptable than the risk of death. Whether it is up to you to stand up for your patient, your student, your community, or your country, there are times when the odds seem stacked against you. There are times when it seems hopeless and all uphill. And in those times, in these very troubled times, it’s time to break out the books for another go. Because there are so many more lessons to draw your strength from.
Up next perhaps? 5 Harry Potter Quotes to keep with you. What do you think?
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