The other day I was walking down the sidewalk by my house (something I rarely do), and I just happened to look to the side and saw one of the books from my little free library was lying in the bushes. It was a paperback version of “Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover’s Soul: Stories of Canine Companionship, Comedy and Courage.”
It was soaked through. Swollen. Warped. Completely beyond rescue.
I realize that this book is not Shakespeare, nor is it ever destined to be on the Times bestseller list, but it was a book. It was a book that someone might have enjoyed. It may have gotten a non-reading dog-lover to actually read. It could have planted a reading seed. But instead, some fool took this book and threw it in the bushes like so much garbage. It made me really sad.
On the Little Free Library Stewards group on Facebook, I hear about vandalism and destruction on a daily basis. Little free libraries that are cleaned out of all their books by one person who will probably sell them on Amazon. Books that are thrown in the snow. Library boxes stolen, or maybe even destroyed. Some libraries have been burned on Halloween or blown up on the 4th of July. So I know I’ve gotten off easy so far.
The thing is (and yes, there’s always a thing), all of these little free libraries have been put there for positive reasons. Their stewards are trying to promote literacy and get books in the hands of people who may not be able to obtain them otherwise. They are a positive force in this world. And I’d like to think that there are more people who benefit from them than there are people who want to vandalize them. But it can be awfully discouraging to know that there are so many destructive forces out there.
I realize that most of these vandals are probably males from the ages of 13 to 25 and that eventually they’ll grow up and mature and stop being so idiotic. But it’s kind of unsettling to walk down the street and look at the adult males and think that a certain percentage of them were once these little hooligans who got away with it and are now just living their lives, and not really making any effort to make the world a better place.
Your boss at work may have once keyed cars for fun. Someone you dated briefly may have destroyed all the beautiful murals in his town on one fateful drunken night. Your family doctor may have enjoyed leaving flaming bags of sh** on peoples doorsteps in his adolescence.
We’ll never know. And for society to function, I suppose it needs to remain unspoken. If we’ve learned nothing else in the past five or six years, we have certainly learned that a great many of us have a cruel, hostile, selfish and destructive streak running through our core. And one of those sub-humans crossed paths with my little free library the other day. Stuff happens.
I did retrieve the book, dry out the pages that hadn’t already been reduced to pulp as best I could, and put those pages in the recycle bin. And I’ll keep adding books to the library for those who actually want to read them. Because the only thing those of us who are responsible can do to counter these fools is to keep on trying to be a force for good.
Please support the little free libraries in your neighborhood, or consider starting one yourself. Namaste.
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