I’ve been hosting a Little Free Library on my property for quite some time now, and for years it’s been a positive and fun experience. It’s been exciting to see the different varieties of books, and how often people stop in. It’s been nice to hear so many positive comments and to see the smiles from our fellow neighbors, and I’ve so enjoyed having it there.
When the COVID-19 lockdown went into effect, I began to see more of my extended neighbors than I ever had before, as they stopped to look into the library and say a quick “thank you for doing this” from a distance if we were outside, or by leaving a kind note.
It was shaping up to be the busiest I’d ever seen it, and I was even more proud of having hosted it than ever before. But on April 20, we hit our first negative experience, and I have to say, it kinda threw me for a loop.
In the wee hours of the morning (4:30 a.m., my neighbor tells me, as she was awake and saw it happen) a couple stopped at the library and chucked EVERYTHING — every single book (and there were probably at least 50 books in there) — into their “very nice, expensive car” and drove off. No idea why, but it left me feeling a bit violated and angry and disheartened and very perplexed.
I thought, “Libraries are closed now, children are home, people are afraid of what the future holds. Now is when my neighbors need this, and someone chose to take that from them, and from me.”
I decided to report the “theft” (I mean, if you can call free books theft) and made sure I told the officer I didn’t want to waste any of their resources right now, I just wanted to report it in case there were other incidents and they wanted to keep track. I also threw out the idea that maybe I should just shut it down for a while. If someone was just going to take the books, what was the point?
And then, very quickly and poignantly, I was reminded why I did this in the first place and that there are so many more good people out there than bad ones. The Wheat Ridge officer, Roy, said, “Don’t you dare let the bad deeds of someone else change who you are, and keep you from doing the good things you’re doing for the community!”
Seriously, I about cried, he was so adamant. And he was right. He then told me he would be bringing a box of his own books over to replenish what we’d lost. And he did. I so needed that pep talk.
This morning, we found another bag of books on our porch with a note saying, “I heard that someone robbed your little library. But not all people suck.” Again, I about cried for joy to see the goodness in my neighbors’ hearts.
So yesterday and today I went out to the library, took the opportunity to wash down the empty shelves and give it a good disinfecting. And this morning I re-stocked books and hung a “Covid-19 Precautions Notice for books” on the door.
I included a quote from Anne Frank: “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” And as I did this, I also remembered a beautiful letter that we found in the library a week or two ago, thanking us profusely for providing a well-stocked library and amazing books to the community, which now means even more to me than it did then.
The moral of my story — for me, anyway — is to not let other people bring us down, to not allow the insecurities or weaknesses of others to affect our belief in ourselves, or to change the good that we can do for our communities and the people in our neighborhoods.
I don’t know what motivated those people to take all of my books, but I do know that I can’t allow their bad deed to have a larger effect on myself or my neighborhood, than the good deeds of everyone else around me. Especially now during these chaotic and emotionally-charged lockdown days.
We have to be our best selves, remember our humanity, and stay strong and united in the face of adversity. We can make active choices about which direction we go. We can choose to not allow fear or resentment to fester. We can choose to keep going, even when negative people say we shouldn’t.
Even if people laugh at our failings and drive away with our good intentions, we can choose instead to focus on the people who are cheering us on. And when I look around, I can see so many people cheering each other on across Colorado.
I see people who are helping others to stay safe, to protect the vulnerable in our communities, who stand united to defy the haters, who help each other to stay connected, who educate, and who inspire. All these things.
What is it that Mother Teresa said? “Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you’ve got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; It was never between you and them anyway.”
I’ll do that, as best I can. It may not be perfect, but I won’t give up without a fight.
Kelly Loy lives in Wheat Ridge.