Home > Dispatches > Daily Dispatches 2020 >Daily Dispatch #45

February 14, 2020: When You’re Smilin’

You get to work earlier than usual because it’s the day before a sale. You enter the building, and the first thing you see are four boxes of books. Your first thought is that someone has brought them up off the warehouse floor and you now have to take them back downstairs. Your second thought is that someone dropped them off.

You walk past the boxes, say hello to everyone, and put on your red sneakers. They’re your power shoes, these, high top converse all stars. You glance at the boxes and are then told that they were, indeed, a donation. It takes about a half minute or so – you stand there momentarily and think about what your work plan is, and how unloading these books will fit into it.

Eagles near the landfill

Then you head downstairs and resume categorizing and sorting.

You go back upstairs after a bit because the warehouse is a loud place, particularly like today when the guy sitting in the front end loader is moving cardboard around. You don’t have earplugs, you keep forgetting to bring them.

Upstairs, you make a sharp left and open the cardboard box lid closest to you. Seeing the contents, you gasp – it contains pristine bird and garden books. You next open a second box – it contains tai chi and Alaska cooking books. You rock back on your heels and say to no one in particular – what gives.

Indeed, what gives is this. You are told the books belonged to a couple, both of whom were educators. Their son recently murdered them both. For a moment, your heart stops, for here, before you, are the couple’s book collection. As these are no ordinary books, they were no ordinary couple. Ordinary couples do not possess beautiful art or wildlife books. These were, obviously, a very meditative and reflective pair.

You picture them both, in their house with the light streaming in the windows. They read for knowledge and enjoyment. They read about their immediate environment, which is Alaska. And they so enjoy sharing their ideas with their close friends.

The collection is still together in a manner of speaking, in four boxes, in front of you. It is your job to disassemble this collection and get these books into the hands of others, others who you hope are as thoughtful and kind and this couple once was. This is a job that you take seriously. You carry the books downstairs, not by the box, but by the handful, and you place them on the new shelves that were put up before your arrival. The crafts books, they go into the sorting and distribution area – but they get their own space on the table, center stage.

You put the books with like-books, and have a sign made that above them reads New Arrivals. These books are alongside books from other collections, but no matter. This New Arrivals sign is just a way of telling people to pay close attention to what’s on the shelves. A ruse? Sort of, but it’s a good ruse because those who see the sign will linger for a moment, and in so doing they will take note of these very special books, once owned by a very special couple.

Book collections are assembled and disassembled now on a daily basis. You are reminded as you put a picture book on the subject of lilies on the shelf that you are just an intermediary, here to assist with the transitional phase. Someday, someone is going to disassemble your collection, and at that point in time someone else will be the intermediary. This should then be seen, not as job but as a calling.

Next: 46. 2/15/20: The Incredible Lightness of Being

Horse Care Home About Us Dispatches Trips Alys's Articles