Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Little Free Library
Wow, talk about a firehose of reader email. My column yesterday, a plain-spoken reaction to the poisonous eruption of textbook racism vomiting forth from the White House over the weekend, just pinned the needle. I spent a few hours trying to answer, then gave up and began ignoring it—letting a few dozen responses gather in my Spam and Trash folders, giving a quick once over through squinted eyes, then deleting.
Not that it was all bad—I know I sometimes give that impression. Actually, a large number of people grateful to see reason reflected in the newspaper, easily as much as those outraged to see their support of a flat-out bigot clearly described. The response was a kind of inverse Bell curve—very little in the middle, with steep slopes on either side.
For today, I pulled on hip boots, grabbed a squeegee, metaphorically, and went to work trying to arrange the muck into a kind of tableau that could be shared and understood. What supporters of Trump do to rationalize their perfidy is sorta interesting. They focus on the insult of calling them what they are—"You're saying I'm a bigot! I'm offended!"—instead of considering that they're being called this because they carry water for a manifest racist. Or they recast the matter—"This is what liberals do when someone disagrees!"—as if it was a potato-potahto matter of equal significance. "You envision an America where all races are treated as equal citizens, I see a Christian white supremacist state where freedoms are ignored to maintain minority right wing power; can't we just agree to disagree?"
But a weariness quickly set in. What's the point? To whose benefit? Certainly not mine. Why think on it? I've already done that too much—particularly when you can consider this colorful "Little Free Library" that went up recently in my leafy suburban paradise, in front of Greenbriar Elementary School, where my boys learned their letters, a serene brick structure a block west of our house.
Very soon after this charming purple, orange and green cabinet caught my eye, The Northbrook Tower, a sprightly and readable free weekly, ran an article telling all about the box, crediting Greenbriar librarian Collen Sanchez for the idea. According to the article—by Grady Bruch, editorial intern, credit where due—the concept began in Wisconsin in 2009, and from there spread. Now more than 4,000 Little Free Libraries grace a nation in dire need of grace. I was impressed that this attractive and professional work of folk art was created by Greenbriar students, themselves, not some professional artist elsewhere. Good job kids! Well done. Three elementary schools—Greenbriar, Meadowbrook and Westmoor each have one.
Inside is stocked with children's books, free for the taking, though I won't be partaking soon. My house already has too many and I have no one to read them to. Which gives me an idea. The boys of course will want to pluck treasures to delight their own progeny, who'll arrive one of these days, sooner than expected, given how the years have been snapping by. That leaves us with plenty. I think I'll make a habit of, on my walks with Kitty, of taking one from our house and donating it to the Free Little Library, now and then, where it can be savored once again, as books should be. There is joy to life—it isn't all Donald Trump and and self-blinded fans driving a great nation to its knees in shame. There is color and hope and generosity and children's books tucked behind glass doors in Little Free Library boxes.