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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thoughts on Donating to the Newtown, Connecticut, Public Library


When I heard about the December 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I decided I didn't want to just cry and feel sad, I wanted to do something concrete, something tangible.

I did three things; maybe I'll blog about the first two later.

Today I did a third thing. I donated a copy of Save Send Delete to the Cyrenius H. Booth Library in Newtown, Connecticut.

I've known suffering. It has often seemed to me that my entire life has been one big waste. One reason I wrote Save Send Delete was to reach out to, and, I hoped, comfort, others who were suffering. In fact, I dedicated the book thus, "For those who suffer alone."

As soon as it occurred to me to donate a copy of Save Send Delete to the Newtown Library, the inner nagging voice began to needle me.

"Those people have suffered great tragedy. You have no right to attempt to comfort them.

You work is inadequate and unworthy.

You're not famous. No one in Newtown will read your book."

I didn't argue with the inner, nagging voice.

In fact, the inner, nagging voice just steeled my determination to donate Save Send Delete to Newtown. I mailed off my copy today.

Everything we do is inadequate. Because we never know what another is going through. And we have to stumble along and attempt to do the right thing, anyway. Because that is the best we can do.

I was in an accident earlier this year. Broken bone; stuck at home, unable to shop, unable even to open a can of food.

Two kind people brought me bread.

God bless them.

I don't eat bread.

And you know what? That is not the point. The point is that these people, without being asked, without waiting, not worrying whether or not they were doing the right thing, jumped in and did *something.* And that made all the difference. Even though I never ate the bread. Those two loaves of bread were talismans to me. Concrete evidence that somebody cared. Even though I almost never eat bread, I pray God for it every day. "Give us this day our daily bread."

I put the loaves in the freezer, in case I ever figured out what to do with them, and just grateful for their presence. When I lost electricity for two weeks because of Hurricane Sandy, the bread passed beyond any conceivable culinary salvation, and, regretfully, I threw it away. With gratitude.

Because.

So many times in my life people have said to me, "I saw you walking and I thought to offer you a ride but I never did."

Or

"I wanted to apologize and I never did."

Or

"I knew my coworker was depressed and I wanted to reach out to him and I never did. And then he killed himself."

Because I couldn't come up with an elegantly scripted apology … because I knew my little donation would not save the world … because I thought my paltry contribution would be laughed at …

One day, on a college campus, a woman I was sure I had never, ever seen walked up to me. She told me she was about to graduate, and before she left town, she wanted to thank me. I had no idea who she was. She reminded me. One day she had been confused about how to use a computer on campus and I explained it to her. "You were so kind. I'll never forget that. No one else would help me, but you did. I was having a hard time that day. Your help meant so much."

I still didn't remember her. I don't remember her now. I'm sure I didn't do anything special or out of the ordinary. To her it meant so much she remembered it for years.

We have to do something. We may never know which thing we did did any good. We can't let the nagging, needling voice win.

I still fear that my little copy of Save Send Delete sent to the Newtown Library is inadequate. I hope, if nothing else, they can feel about it the way that I felt about the bread.

Donations of inspirational books can be made to the Newtown Library's "Books heal hearts" campaign here.

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