I know that this idea is not super-original, but it’s worth sharing and reconsidering if you’ve come across it from elsewhere. For me it was the result of two things: something that I had done, and something that I had read.
When I was attending the Nevada Library Association’s conference in October 2016, I was having breakfast with some amazing children’s librarians, when an adorable little girl in a booth next to ours started playing peekaboo with us.
We explained to the parents that we were Children’s Librarians mainly to keep them from seeking security to remove us from the restaurant.
I then surprised the girl during a “peek” moment by holding up one of the handheld fans I carry at all times since some of my medications can raise my body temperature.
The little girl was enamored. When the parents offered to pay me for the fan, I refused and told them “take your girl to one of your library’s storytimes – I’ll consider that payment.” It was a really cool experience for me – and one of my many cherished memories from that trip.
Somewhere online I read a post or comment from a Children’s Librarian who was telling the story of a toddler who was melting down at a restaurant. She said that as a Children’s Librarian she almost always keeps free books in her car, so she went out, grabbed one, and gave it to the child who was instantly enraptured with it. Awesome Librarian Act of Random Kindness Achievement unlocked!
I was like, Hey! I should totally carry around a board book with me at all times to give away to a child! And I did just that. I took one of the smaller board books that we were using for our GPL Cares campaign (where we donate donated books to local dentists’, doctors’, and veterinarians’ offices) and put it in my purse. And there it stayed for months – mostly forgotten about.
But last week the time finally came for me to give out my first book, and I almost completely missed the opportunity.
I was walking around the Nebraska State Capitol building after having met with my Senator for our Advocacy Day. I was pretty jubilant that I’d found my way around, had a good meeting, and wasn’t having a fibro flare. I was so caught up in myself that I walked right on by a mom, dad, and child who were having a rough day. The toddler was screaming while the mom tried to get a warm jacket on him – and lemme tell you what: that building is a giant echo chamber.
I am ashamed to say that I kept going past them for about a yard, but then it hit me that I had a book with me that might help them out. I sucked up my courage (believe it or not – I’m a super shy introvert IRL), and approached the family. I said, “Hi, I’m a Children’s Librarian – is there anything I can do to help?” (yes, I know I’m not a Children’s Librarian, but it was easier saying that than what my real job title is). The mom said, “Oh no thanks, he’s late for his nap and is not happy about it.” I pulled out my book and showed it to the toddler and there wasn’t even a hesitation – he reached for it IMMEDIATELY. The mom said that they have that book at home (yay!), and so I told her that she could pass this one on.
Let me tell you, the full minute I had walking down the long hallway where there wasn’t any shrieking was one of my favorite parts of the day (and there were lots of good things that happened that day). Yes, the kid returned to fuss-mode, but I like to think that it wasn’t quite as loud as it had been. And maybe I made the parents consider going to a library and bringing their child – that librarians care and have good resources for them.
All that might be wishful thinking, but I believe that you never know how little things can impact the life or lives of those around you. So why not grab a book (stickers are optional since they are potential choking hazards), keep it in a bag you carry, and be ready to swoop in and blow a stranger’s mind? It’s a pretty great feeling.