On July 24, 2019, with the help of my husband, I fulfilled a dream that I had had for many years. I was able to place a little free library in front of my house. It was an exciting moment, because books mean a great deal to me, and literacy means even more. By providing this service, I felt as though I was doing something very significant for my community.
For the uninitiated, little free libraries are boxes placed in communities and filled with books. You take a book, but you don’t necessarily have to return it (which is often the case in my library). You can also donate books for others to enjoy.
These libraries are great for those who don’t have the time or ability to go to a public library. They’re particularly effective in areas of high foot traffic. In my neighborhood, they seem to be used most by parents who are taking their children for a walk. It’s hard to keep children’s books in my library. And that gratifies me a great deal, because children who read become adults who read, and adults who read are more intelligent, and develop the critical thinking skills that are necessary to have a positive impact on society at large.
I don’t think I quite realized how much fun I would have in this endeavor. We have no neighbors right next door. It’s not a pop-in-and-borrow-a-cup-of-sugar kind of community. So I wasn’t expecting this magical little box to do so much to make me feel connected to the people in my area.
Now, when people see me watering the plants in the front yard, they say hello. If they are walking down the street and they see me pulling out of my driveway, they point at the library and shout a thank you. I have a log book in my library, and they leave the most gratifying notes. They talk about how much they enjoyed this or that book. They ask for books of a certain genre, and I do my best for them. They tell me about the books they’ve donated. They thank me for being an easy source of reading material for people who don’t have cars and can’t easily get to the public library. All these things bring tears to my eyes.
Unfortunately, due to this pandemic, I felt it was necessary to temporarily shut down my library. I didn’t want to. I really struggled with the concept. But in the end, I knew that doing the responsible thing takes precedence over doing what feels good.
This, for me, has been the hardest part of this pandemic. And I’ve been told by more than one passerby that it has been hard for them, too. In fact, they have begged me to reopen.
So we’ve decided to do so on a trial basis, with certain precautions. We have added a bottle of hand sanitizer, and a sign asking patrons to use it before touching anything. We’ve also removed the logbook, pens, rubber duckies, and bookmark giveaways. This breaks our hearts, but safety first.
I worry about the health of everyone in the neighborhood, but as tensions and boredom and temperatures are rising, and morale is at an all time low, I feel as though our little library is needed now more than ever. I hope that all of us have learned enough about safe behavior during this pandemic to treat the library safely and responsibly.
So there you have it. Today was supposed to be an anniversary celebration. I was thinking balloons and bookmark giveaways and cookies and a table with an even wider selection of titles. Instead, it has turned into an un-iversary, because we were closed for about 1/4th of the year, and we really can’t have a big fete.
All of this has me longing for better, healthier days. But it reminds me that it really is possible to make a difference. And that, in these chaotic, unpredictable times, is something to hold onto.
I love that the idea of sharing with one another has taken off and seems to show no signs of losing its momentum. It renews my faith in humanity. We are all in this together.
I suspect this trend has a lot to do with the fact that we’re starting to realize that we can’t count on help from those in positions of power. The one percent doesn’t care about us. We therefore must step up and care about each other.
Even the smallest gesture, like the gift of a ball of yarn, can make a difference. It’s a step away from selfishness. It’s a way to reach out.
We are taught the importance of sharing in kindergarten. But it never hurts to be reminded. And good things come from it.
As they say, hindsight is 20/20. I’ve learned a great deal about communication from my healthy relationship with my husband. It makes me realize how messed up all my past relationships have been.
Years ago, pre-husband, when I had something that (I thought) was interesting to share, I’d say, “Hey Bob!” (Name changed because, to be honest, I really don’t care.)
He’d respond, “What’s your problem?”
That would take the wind out of my sails. Here, I wanted to tell him this cool thing I’d heard on NPR. I wanted to share a moment. A laugh. A smile. Instead of responding with enthusiasm, he’d come at me with his typical negativity.
For Bob, everything was a problem. Being alive was a problem. You’ve never met a sadder sack in your entire life. It made people uncomfortable. They wanted to avoid him. I didn’t realize how much his horrible attitude weighed me down until I got out from under it.
Who wants to be in a relationship where everything you say is interpreted as some sort of problem? I certainly didn’t. And even more insidious is the fact that clearly there was a lot under the surface that he was failing to say. He’d much rather be a martyr than assertively communicate and work out issues. No positive growth to be had there. Instead, I got the passive aggressive, “What’s your problem?”
Oh, I tried to talk to him about it on multiple occasions. He didn’t seem to think that any changes were needed, so I was left to realize that the problem was, in fact, his. I hope he hasn’t carried that on to future relationships. I would wish rather more for him than that.
But his Facebook page indicates that he’s still unhappy with life. It’s an endless litany of complaints, negativity, bitter humor, deep cynicism, and depression. Every once in a while there will be something pleasant in there, but if you count each post as positive or negative, the negative stuff outweighs those things ten to one, and half the time the positive things were posted to his page by someone else. It makes me sad just to look at it. It also makes me relieved that I’m no longer breathing that toxic air.
Now I’m married to someone who is interested in what I have to say. He also happens to have a lot of interesting things to say himself. I look forward to talking to him. It isn’t a chore for either of us. I save up stuff to tell him at that happy moment when I finally get home, and we communicate positively throughout the day. And now I realize that’s how it should be. How lucky am I?
Yes, life will throw its fair share of problems at you. There’s no denying that. But that’s not the lens through which I choose to view the world. It’s not my automatic assumption. I also happen to think that negativity is learned, and can be unlearned, but some people would rather wallow. I have no idea why. Clearly wallowing hasn’t made them happy or they wouldn’t feel the need to wallow.
I have this theory that people like this think that their attitude is something that they are helpless victims of, rather than it being a conscious choice. I would hate to feel that helpless. Yes, I struggle with depression, and there are days when I feel like crying, but for the most part, I spin my world rather than letting it spin me.
Your existence should not be a problem to overcome. There is so much to see and do and learn and be inspired by! There’s so much beauty and wonder! Life is such a gift and such an opportunity. It shouldn’t be squandered.
It’s delightful to be in a relationship that isn’t covered with a wet wool blanket of despair. My husband can put a positive spin on just about anything. If he sees dog poop in the road, he’ll say, “Thank goodness the dog wasn’t run over!”
It seems that this gentleman’s dog loves sticks, and there were none in the dog park in New Zealand that they frequent. So, being handy, he built a box and filled it with smooth-edged sticks for the dogs who visit to use and return. What a delightful gesture. A lending library for dogs.
All these ideas have a recurring theme: Sharing. Sharing builds community. Sharing gives people a stronger sense of place. Sharing promotes generosity.
In a world that seems increasingly polarized, the guy who built this box seems to be saying, “I’m not worried about your politics or your religion or your race or your social standing. I just want to make your dog smile.”
I’m sitting here on the other side of the world, and the concept is making me smile, too. I hope it catches on. The dogs of the world would thank us.
Recently I started a Little Free Library, and it’s been so popular that I can barely keep up with it. I’ve also blogged about Chat Benches, which is another community-building idea whose time definitely has come. From here, a friend told me about another fantastic idea: Little Free Gardens.
According to the website, “The goal of the Little Free Garden project is to foster communities committed to growing, sharing and cultivating food in small gardens, placed in residential or public spaces.”
What a brilliant concept. And it’s simple, really. 1) Build a box, perhaps 4 feet by 2 feet and 12 inches deep. 2) Plant vegetables or fruit therein. 3) Place it in your front yard or in an approved public space, so that the produce can be shared by anyone who wants or needs it.
Not only are you helping to feed others, but you are educating them about the value of fresh, high quality, local food, and encouraging gardening. It’s also a great way to meet your neighbors and build community connections.
What’s not to love about this idea? If you don’t have the time or space to plant a little free garden, please consider hopping over to their website and supporting this organization in its good works.
There’s been much ado about Facebook data of late. What do they know, and when did they know it? How is it used? And why do I keep getting pummeled with real estate ads when I’ve already bought my house?
A friend recently showed me this article that describes, among other things, how to download your own Facebook data. I was immediately intrigued. Since I am my very favorite subject, I immediately dropped everything and followed the instructions.
When you’re in Facebook, click that downward pointing arrow on the ribbon at the upper right. Then click settings. That should bring you to General Account Settings. Beneath that list of info, you should see the statement “Download a copy of your Facebook data.” Click it.
Now, if you’ve been on Facebook as long as I have, it is going to take a while to download this stuff. But it’s quite revealing when you do.
For instance, I had no idea how many apps I have been active in. Most of them I recognize from past use, at least, but some of them I don’t recognize at all. For example, what the hell is MeowShare? And Disqus?
And most interesting were the Ads Topics. These words and phrases are what companies use to target me with ads, and a lot of them are spot on. But then there are some that are really out there and unrecognizable, like “Charlton Athletic F.C” or “Mud (2012 film)”. Others are oddly vague, such as life, love, religion, cup, duck, and Louisiana. (Beats me.)
The index made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It has my birth date, my e-mail, my city, my relationship status, my family and friends, my education, my work history, all my indicated interests, and all my Facebook groups. Wow.
I mean, I knew Facebook had this information, of course. I’m the one who gave it to them. But seeing it all laid out in one neat little package was kind of freaky. And of course, I still have no idea what they actually have done with this information. The worst part is that I will never know for sure.
Am I going to get off Facebook? Probably not. This is the only way I keep in touch with many people. But now I’m going to feel as if someone is looking over my shoulder. And that’s not a pleasant feeling.
I’ve been looking for you for years. I often wondered if you were right under my nose and I just wasn’t seeing you, or if I wasn’t looking in the right place. More than once I thought I saw you, and you just couldn’t or wouldn’t see me. I always wondered if you were reading my blog, which was the only way I knew how to show myself to the world.
Did we pass each other on the street without recognizing each other? I’d look into the faces of strangers, hoping they’d see me, really see me, and consider me worth the effort. I’m sure I looked like every other face in the crowd, but inside my head I was screaming, “Where are you?”
It’s been a long, lonely, painful slog. I know you’ve been looking for me, too. If you’re reading this, I’m just glad you’re finally here. All during the search, precious time was passing; this was time I could have been spending with you. It felt like such a missed opportunity.
Every time I saw something new, I wanted to share it with you. Every time I got good news, I wanted to tell you. Every time I hit a rough patch, I wished you were there to comfort me. And there were a lot of amazing experiences I passed up, simply because I didn’t want to go it alone. I hope we still have time to do those things. I hope you’ll want to.
All I’ve ever wanted, really, was someone to travel with, and take naps with, and be playful with and have intelligent conversations with. I’ve wanted someone brave enough to win over and love my psycho dog as much as I do (that alone will weed out the vast majority). I’ve wanted someone who looks forward to seeing me as much as I look forward to seeing him.
I wasn’t looking for glamor or perfection, just mutual acceptance. I want us both to be able to be ourselves. I want someone who gets me. I want us to be able to count on each other. I had that once, and it was abruptly taken away. (I just hate mortality, sometimes.) I miss it.
I want to create a safe and peaceful harbor, together. So if you’re reading this, thank you for showing up. I’m sorry for almost having given up on you. I should have had more faith. But having said that, what took you so long?
While social media may be sucking the life force out of us in many ways, it also has its advantages. I am convinced the holocaust could never have happened in 2016. Those of us who legitimately didn’t know what was going on back then would know now, and those of us who were pretending not to know would have no excuse. And holocaust deniers would look even more idiotic than they already look, if that’s possible.
Everyone who has a cell phone or any internet device is now a potential reporter. That’s why the bad cops among the good ones are getting so much attention. Like cockroaches, they don’t do well in the light.
The Arab Spring would not have spread to so many countries a half century ago. There was no easy way to pass the word. There was no way to let others know that you felt the same way about things as they did.
Before police jurisdictions could share information about unsolved cases, it was easier to be a serial criminal. And while the rich and powerful still seem to be able to do their dirty deeds with impunity, the power of public opinion gets stronger with time. Little Brother is watching you.
The thing that countries that like to censor their citizens don’t seem to realize is that sharing information is always a good idea. Unless, of course, your motives aren’t pure. But censorship is a lot harder when the number of avenues of communication are increasing by the day.
I genuinely believe that the reason we as a society seem more cynical and dissatisfied and put upon than ever isn’t that things have gotten worse. It’s that it’s more obvious now. Even if it has been forever thus, one of the things we’re more readily able to share these days is that we’re pissed off.
When you love someone, it seems as though you develop your own special language. This language is full of cultural references, but they often spring from a culture of two. You can speak this language in the presence of others and no one else will understand.
The more you do this, the more special you start to feel. It’s like a drug. The underlying message is, “You mean enough to me to share secrets with.” “You understand me like no one else can.” “We share things that we’ve never shared with others.” “We have a common history to draw upon.”
The other day as I was waking up and still half in a dream, I heard my late boyfriend whispering in my ear. “You are my woman-stash. More so than Mouse.” And it brought happy tears to my eyes. When I started to write this entry, I planned to go on and explain what that means, but on second thought, I think I’ll keep it to myself. Suffice it to say it’s the highest compliment he could possibly give me.