I was intrigued by MommyCoddle’s call for folks to join her in her Guerrilla Goodness project, so I promptly responded with a quick email to jump on board. The premise: those participating will receive a card in the mail with a prompt to initiate some kind of random act of kindness and report back on the results. What I haven’t done promptly is distill the results into type form. Ruminating is what I’ve been doing instead. Ruminating and healing.
I answered the call of civic duty in the most interest-appropriate way I could think of, by becoming a trustee on our local library board. That library was instrumental to settling into this new town five years ago. It’s a critical part of my parenting; working through a stack of fresh library books with the Boy and Girl on my lap is about the only time I feel like I’m hitting it out of the park as a Momma. Indeed, getting a library card has become a right of passage in this small family. Serving on the board that advises and to a very limited extent, governs it, seemed like a natural extension of that love and appreciation. And it was an exciting time to do so, I realized, as plans to move and expand the library into a sparkly-new space were in the infant stages. That I could be an instrumental part of this process was an exhilarating prospect.
But the wheels fell off. Plans were unveiled amidst secrecy and unknowns and big dollar signs, with the trustees of the library board among those completely in the dark. I chalk it up to the noxious cloud of POLARIZATION that’s been hovering over the entire state of Wisconsin for the last year and a half, pitting otherwise-cordial neighbors against each other. (my phone is ringing at this very moment with a call originating in Washington D.C. to instruct me how to vote in our upcoming Recall election) Our air is filthy with this hostility. It’s no real surprise, then, that this mentality of all-or-nothing and black-or-white dug its claws into this project to redevelop our downtown. Those who claimed undying love for the library were adamantly against the project, despite its goal of a bigger, new library facility. Those who were promoting the plan, come hell or high water, were using the library as the linchpin to sell it. Meetings were held, voices were raised, blood pressures ran amok. Resignations were tendered; those still in position were undeniably exhausted.
I received my Guerrilla Goodness card in the mail from MommyCoddle amidst all of this. Were you present in the room when I tore open the envelope, you would have seen my face fall as I read the instructions to “pay the toll of the car behind you” or “pay a stranger’s parking meter.” We are blessedly short of tollways in Wisconsin. And parking’s pretty darn cheap too – the vast majority of it is free. This was the card I absolutely did not want to get. (they were dispersed randomly, so I have only Chance to thank) I grumbled for a few days until the notion of modifying it came to mind.
I walked into the library soon after and struck up a conversation with the librarian. “I have this project I’m participating in…” and wondered aloud if it might be feasible to pay someone’s library fines. Why yes, she said, so-and-so just came in earlier today and was heartbroken that the outstanding fines on his card prevented him from checking anything out. (those overdue dvds add up quickly – caution!) Perfect, I said, and wrote out a check on the spot. I wanted it to be anonymous; (cough…as anonymous as performing a good deed and then BLOGGING about it will allow) I didn’t want to gain any recognition for this, but if I look deep within, I see that this act wasn’t nearly as unselfish as I thought.
I did this purely for me. I had lost the wonder and the warmth of the library and needed it back. I needed to remember what I was fighting for, in this ideological nonsense battle that was dragging me down. I needed to shift my perspective and to find a way to get a breath of fresh air amidst all of the pollution. It’s about books, folks. About new ideas, different ways of seeing the world, the opening up of one’s self that inherently comes with turning the pages of a book. It’s about community – this is the physical space in our village where the heartbeat lives, the how-do-you-do and what’s-new-with-you and how-are-you-coming-along-since-that-happened conversations that take place here in the library more frequently than any other place in town.
Can a simple act of random kindness begin to purify the toxic atmosphere we’ve created here? I’d guess not, but it can’t hurt. A few deep breaths never hurt anyone.