Monday, November 3, 2014

I Found Some Comfort There: Little Library Up From the Ashes

Current view of the little library

If you ride along Lafayette in Phoenix this week, you will see a bare pole standing in the spot where the Little Library used to stand in front of Shepherd of the Hills Church. I stopped to read the sign to try to find out what happened, and while it doesn't tell the whole story, it does say that there's going to be a rededication this Sunday, where people are invited to bring a book to donate.

Photo from November, 2012, of this gorgeous little house for books

Whenever I rode my bicycle past here, stopping occasionally to see what books might have been added recently, a couple times dropping off some books of my own, I was struck every single time by the warmth and humanness of it, the comfort of the gesture of a church and a neighborhood where something like this stands, just to be what it is, just to offer a rest stop for books passing from the hands of one person who read them to another who may also wish to read them. Not some massive, florescent-lit impersonal box for buying anonymous stuff from the other side of the world with closeout books tossed unceremoniously on a table that last week held shirts in strange unpopular colors and patterns 70% off, but the opposite of that: a little free place, never to be mined by anonymous crowds but instead by a few neighbors, a few passersby, specific, unique minds with the potential to be touched by the nice gesture of another.

I loved the warm wood, the welcoming words, the open glass front inviting you in to take a quick look, but this Little Free Library was more than a small bookshelf beneath a roof and behind a door: it was a message of comfort and generosity sent from its stewards to the rest of us: people matter, have a book!

So, what happened? A little worried about what I might find, I checked to see if the church has a newsletter online. Sure enough, and the news was not good.

Photo taken from Shepherd Life Volume 53/Issue 11 November 2014,
the newsletter of the Shepherd of the Hills Church. Used without permission.

That's a pretty devastating picture. The newsletter explains that some time on the night of October 4, someone torched the Little Free Library. Then, without further detail, it invites the community to the Rededication of a a new and improved little library on Sunday, November 9 at 9:00 am. Participants are invited to bring a favorite book to restock this neighborhood treasure.

When I learned what had happened, many emotions, mainly negative, passed through my mind. Despair at people and anger at the perpetrators, among others. But those emotions are not what this Little Free Library is about. If what I wrote above is close to the mark, its the intentions behind it that are most important, the connection of the stewards to the readers that this space offered, and will offer again, to share books. 

I've found comfort in that connection before, I find comfort in thinking about it now, and I am hopeful that the renewed beauty of the new and improved Little Free Library will offer the same to many others who pass by this place. Including, perhaps, whoever burned it. I'm sure there may have been some frustration and sadness in the library stewards when they first heard what had happened, but those emotions were quickly followed by peace, understanding, forgiveness. I'm sure of that because they're putting another one up, and sending a clear message by doing that. Connection, peace, understanding, and forgiveness offer comfort, and will overcome. The new and improved Little Free Library may be a symbol of that, and we in the community who use and drop off books to it may be both experience and confirmation of that, but more than the symbol or the confirmation, what resonates in this rededication is the confirmation of compassion and forgiveness it embodies. 

I thought about that, and in that place of the mind, and of the heart, I found comfort that is surer than fire or ashes. Look, there beside the bike lane, a Little Free Library. I wonder what books will be there next. Take one, leave one, peace.


  1. Somehow, that is even worse than the stains left on the entrance sign at the Mormon church in Ocean Shores. At least that only took some sandblasting to make it whole again.

    1. Books are certainly symbols, too, and something like this evokes negative emotions. But I still think compassion and forgiveness is the way to go here. It's going to take some effort to make the human side of this whole, but it can be done.

  2. I just saw this. People suck.


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