Thursday, February 27, 2014

What Must Be Acknowledged

You may not realize it, but librarians are "professionally trained" to avoid unsolicited comments on your books.  As in, it's considered bad form to remark in a personal way about your selections, no matter how much we want to squeal that we loved that book you chose and just-you-wait-til-the-end-it-will-blow-your-mind, or to ask you how your recovery is going from this, that or the other if you check out a book about it.

Intellectually, I understand this concept and generally follow it.

Sometimes though, my heart speaks up, and while I feel a twinge of professional guilt, I'm not sorry to bend this guideline once in a while.  Because I am dealing with people here-not an Amazon order that gets delivered in a bland manilla envelope after being "handpicked" by a souless machine in a cavernous warehouse.  A person stands before me, and even with the option to avail themselves of self-check (and thus greater privacy) they still have chosen to set a stack of books before me for checkout.

I don't pretend to believe that this act, by itself, is an invitation to converse about said stack.

But sometimes, it is.  Experience has taught me the difference.

A while ago it was a gentleman with a stack of books about grief, funerals and eulogies.  I checked out his books and paused with my hand on top of the pile.  "I want to tell you that I'm so very sorry that these are the books you are checking out today.  I'm sorry you have any need of them."

He looks up and straight into my eyes.  He's a little startled, I can tell, but he says carefully, "Thank you so much for acknowledging that.  My family and I are a mess.  But we will get through this.  Thank you for saying something."

I never say "You're welcome," to that kind of thanks. My voice is always cracked up somewhere in the back of my throat and I can't trust it.

Today I have want of a similar stack.  I'd want books if they could cushion the battering my heart has taken.  If a stranger acknowledged my pain with the slightest gesture, I might be a little startled, too.

But we are all members of the same small tribe on this tiny planet in unfathomable space. We must observe and acknowledge each other.  Our stories may be the faintest whispers in the universe, but if we lean in closely enough, we can hear them.  If we can hear them, we can treasure them. And in this way, we are held.  First by each other, and then by God, who gave us the ears in the first place and tunes them for a whisper.

May I not miss the whispers.

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