“Do you have a public phone?”
It’s one of the most-asked questions we hear at the library.
That and, “I”m looking for a movie. I don’t know the title. I don’t know what it’s about or who’s in it, but I remember it had a green cover.”
We do not have a public telephone at the public library, but we do allow patrons and visitors to make brief calls for rides if necessary on our main line. Payphones and public phones these days are as rare as hen’s teeth.
And no, I can’t find your green-covered, nameless DVD.
Friday we got a new wave of Halfway House gentlemen as patrons of the library, and we were creating new accounts so the recently released parolees could use the library, specifically the computers. Typically, one of the first things the former inmates do is reactivate their Facebook and e-mail accounts and contact loved ones and friends they haven’t been able to talk to in sometimes months.
Communication is so important for humans. God created us to live in community with one another. God saw that the first human was lonely in the Garden of Eden, so God created a co-steward, co-pilot, best friend, partner to make the days and nights manageable.
Communication makes community better.
It’s why Christians are commanded to fellowship together for worship. It’s why Holy Communion is so holy. It’s why forgiving others and asking for forgiveness for one’s trespasses is so critical to a right relationship with God and each other. It’s all about communicating in community.
It’s why I’m empathetic when Halfway House guys, the impoverished, the transient and the homeless ask us to use the phone.
Today was a little different. After I received the Question, and promptly shot the guy a response in the negative, I helped another older, more established gentlemen at the desk with a fax. While he was waiting for it to go through, he walked over to the parolee and handed him his cell phone.
“Here,” he said. “Go ahead and make your call.”
The parolee was extremely appreciative, and quickly stepped outside to attempt his call.
My eyes wide, I could only watch as someone entrusted a complete stranger with a smart phone worth several hundred dollars.
That was exactly the kind of person I want to be. The woman who trusts those who are seen as the “least of these” with one of her most valuable possessions. And it’s exactly the kind of person I’m most often not.
The parolee came back in and returned the phone. The older gentleman asked if the call was a success. “No, but I’ve been away for a long time, so numbers might have changed.”
The older gentleman went about his business, and the parolee went back to his computer.
Still a little shocked by the exchange, I noticed as the older gentleman again sought out the parolee a minute later. “Looks like your friend is on the line,” and handed back the phone to the parolee.
For me, on a lonnnnnng day of desk of work at the library, it was refreshing, encouraging and exciting to see people being kind to people.
It’s another example of libraries being a place that make you better. At least they make me better. (Read Life at the Library, Part One)
Also, lest you think my day was full of altruism, I was also faced with this conversation:
“I’m so happy I ought to give you a kiss,” said one male patron.
“Sir, we do not kiss in the library,” I was forced to reply.
And this out-of-the-blue question:
“Do you have any tattoos?”
Oh, and the day before:
“Women especially should pack a gun. Dusty, you should carry a gun if you don’t already.”
Welcome to the public library. They really do make you better.