Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Past Five Months: A Children's Story

Once upon a time there was a great, big library with great, big bookshelves filled with great big books, and lots of librarians working to serve the great big population of people who used the library. In one corner of the library was a great big office with a big, metal desk covered in big piles of paperwork, and behind those piles of paperwork was a quiet, small girl called the Dreaded Librarian. She worked hard to help great big groups of teenagers who used the library, and smiled as much as she could, even when she was having a bad day.

She smiled when the teenagers tore books apart and shoved them under the reading chairs.

She smiled when people complained about the noisy kids, and explained that they had a right to use the library just like everyone else.

She smiled at all the people who used the computers, and kept smiling even when they said inappropriate things to her that made pieces of her die inside.

She kept smiling even through sad things, because she knew happy things were soon to follow.

For example, she smiled when teenagers from Maine and New York joined together to paint a beautiful mural of a peaceful and diverse global community on the great, big front windows of the library.  

She smiled when teenagers brought her tasty ethnic food and invited her to their homes for dinner.

She smiled when her  teenagers created lovely drawings in art club and gave them to her to hang in her office.
And she smiled when her teens graduated from high school and moved on to do bigger and better things.

But one day, the great, big library told her that they didn't want her anymore. There was someone better than her. They told her they "didn't just want to hire their friends," and that they had picked another girl from a faraway place who did not know the kids or the community. The new girl would work at the great big library now, but not the Dreaded Librarian.

The Dreaded Librarian tried very hard to smile...but she could not.
She thought of all her teenagers, and how much she loved each of them. She thought of all they had taught her, and all she had taught them. She thought of all the great, big plans she had to fill the library with great, big programs for great, big groups of kids. But mostly she thought about how the kids would think she had abandoned them.
And then the Dreaded Librarian's smile began to quiver...and she cried.

Several sad weeks passed when she had to say goodbye to all of her teenagers. People in the community were very upset, and some of her coworkers were very upset too. Everyone felt a bit betrayed by the great, big library.

Some days later, there was a teeny, tiny library that met the Dreaded Librarian and were really impressed by her. Even though her smile was hidden behind a sad mask, they could tell that she was really kind. They asked her to join their library, to work with teeny, tiny children in their Youth Services department. The Dreaded Librarian had a great, big hole in her heart, but when the little library offered her the job she saw a teeny, tiny glimmer of light...and so she said YES and accepted the job!

The teeny, tiny library had a teeny, tiny Children's Department filled with books spilling out of the teeny, tiny shelves. There were teeny, tiny tables and chairs crammed into teeny, tiny nooks and crannies. The other librarians were kind and welcoming, and taught the Dreaded Librarian all about children's books in their teeny, tiny department. There were warm colors, cluttered posters, happily used chairs, and tousled toys everywhere, which made the teeny, tiny light in the Dreaded Librarian's heart grow just a teeny, tiny bit.

In this place there were also a few small, sad plants in teeny, tiny pots with very little sunlight.  They seemed to droop in awkward places and shed little brown leaves like tears. At first, they were overlooked since everything else was so new and exciting, but after a few weeks the Dreaded Librarian noticed the sad little plants. She saw their drooping limbs and chlorophyll deprived leaves and felt a pang in her chest--a knowing connection with these plants, an understanding of the pain they were going through. She took an interest in them right away. She began by giving them teeny, tiny drops of water to quench their thirst without drowning them, and soon was bringing in scissors for little haircuts--small brown leaves and little dead twigs got quietly snipped away. And, oh! What a miracle! After a few short weeks, those teeny, tiny, sad plants...began to grow! New leaves unfurled bursting with deep green colors, and little stems soon grew into strong, healthy vines and branches reaching towards the light with determination. With a little love, these plants decided to LIVE, and by jove, that's what they did.

It was one day as the Dreaded Librarian was watering these plants that a small girl walked up to her and, with a tilt of her head and a Mona Lisa smile, asked in a wee little voice, "May I hug you?" Such a teeny, tiny gesture, such a teeny, tiny sign of care, like the few drops of water the Dreaded Librarian first gave to the thirsty plants! But it was a gesture big enough to make the Dreaded Librarian's heart unfurl with a new strength, one that said with determination, "LIVE, by jove! Celebrate with joy and know that you are strong!" It was as though a new branch of inner life was formed in that very moment, in those few small words, and that branch was determined to grow into a great, big branch full of great, big life and great, big opportunities.

It takes time, but all that goes around will surely come around. The incident with that darling little girl reminded the Dreaded Librarian of the Aesop Fable, "The Lion and the Mouse." And as the Dreaded Librarian finished watering the lively plants, the phantom of the little girl's embrace still clinging to her heart, she knew that everything would work out. The great, big hole in her heart seemed to retreat and become a teeny, tiny scar, a gentle reminder of the blow that made her stronger, and of the mouse that helped her in her time of need.