I don’t think there’s a single arena of life that COVID-19 hasn’t radically altered. Everywhere I look, trees are blooming and things are coming to life, but my kids’ sports are cancelled. We can’t go to the doctor’s office unless it’s an emergency. School and work are still going on, but they’re happening in the comfy (for now) confines of our suburban Atlanta home. Honestly, we’re beyond blessed. We each have a laptop to work on, solid internet service, and room to spread out. We have a nice neighborhood to walk in as well as a backyard with a porch. We’re also beginning to build raised garden beds to grow produce, bringing two beehives back to the yard, and applying for a permit so we can have chickens. These projects will both help us pass the time in a healthy way and, in the long run, help us be more independent.
Because I have multiple sclerosis (and am therefore immunocompromised), getting out and volunteering isn’t an option for me, but I want to help my neighbors. One thing our family loves to do is read, but our libraries are closed for the duration. And that got me to thinking about people who might enjoy a new book or two during this crazy season (especially if they can’t afford to buy them online). Thankfully, there are Little Free Libraries dotted all around us, so we decided to clean off some shelf space and donate a few well-loved tomes to folks who might welcome the pleasant distraction only a book can offer. To find Little Free Libraries near you, visit this site.
Two baskets full of books (for both grown-ups and littles) later, we set off in my trusty yellow car. The first two libraries we found had solid offerings, and we took a book from each (making sure to leave a few in return). But the third one! Oh, the third one! It was in a family’s front yard, and it was—in a word—perfect. The library was painted to match the owner’s house. It was spacious, so the books could stand up straight in two rows. The glass was clean, so you could see everything inside before you opened the door. There was a little bench nearby to sit down and scan a book before leaving, and the owners had even put a jar of precious Clorox wipes in there so people could sanitize what they took and put in! How freakin’ thoughtful is that!? I ended up taking three from that one because it had a great selection and left several of my favorites behind (including an autographed copy of A Gentleman In Moscow).
There was something about that entire experience—being able to both give and receive in such a beautiful, intentionally designed, and welcoming space—that left me feeling somehow lighter than I have in the weeks since the coronavirus hit the United States. I didn’t talk to the people in that house, but I felt like I had a conversation of sorts with them. I got to know them just a bit through their library. It was obvious they cared about it (and by extension the people who came to use it), and I was thrilled to be able to contribute something. We were making a connection in that space, however brief, and it was a reminder that people care and life will go on eventually. And when it does, I hope I can do a better job building and maintaining community.
On the way to stop number four, we passed a little house where kids had written “Everything will be okay!!!!!” in sidewalk chalk across the width of their driveway. Topped with a very detailed rainbow, it certainly stood out, and we stopped the car to look at it for just a second or two. The fact that those kiddos decided to take the time to post that message, to encourage and reassure people they’d never meet struck something deep inside me. They, too, were reaching out with all those colors and exclamation marks. They were building community in some small way. Both they and the library owners were speaking shalom into this broken, scared, sin-sick world. Bless them. Bless them all, Lord.
As night drew in on the last day of this very long and stressful week, I stood on the back porch watching the sky fade from gold to pink to a muted purple-gray and enjoying cool evening air full of storm promise. I listened to the soothing murmur of wind moving through the tall pine trees, transforming them into long-limbed dancers that graced the sky with slow waving. Perhaps they, too, were speaking shalom. Or perhaps they were simply swaying to the music of the spheres that’s just beyond our fathoming.