Recently I wrote a letter to my niece for her school project. She wanted letters from her friends and family as keepsakes. The instructions said I should write about something to inspire her, my observations on life, some inspiring quotes, how I perceive of her. I sat there in the front of the keyboard looking at the blinking cursor pondering what to tell her. I had just read some disturbing comments by a presidential candidate, spreading hatred and bigotry. I was angry, disillusioned and of course frustrated. It was not the perfect mindset to write an inspiring letter to a new teen to motivate her. Then, instead of focusing on what we read/hear from the important and influential persons on media, I brought back my focus on those who surround me and influence me personally. I viewed the world from my lens of perception and there I found a treasure trove of inspiring stories of humanity.
I work at a public library in a relatively diverse neighborhood so I get to see a microcosm of the world right here in my work place. I see the melting pot that America truly is, here in my library, where immigrants from different countries come together to an English Conversation class to communicate with English speakers better, people of all colors come to create resumes and apply for jobs to better their lives and their families, saree clad or hijab covered mothers bring their babies and children to attend story hours. I see not simply acceptance but respect for people of all color, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion in my library world. This is the real America, which is colorful, which is loving, which is respectful and which believes in solidarity. But this America does not get written up in newspapers, this America does not find a place in political rhetorics. I decided to tell her about the America that I see around me and not the one I hear about on television and news sites. Here are some personal experiences.
I was sitting at the kiosk on a very gray day in December, despairing over the impending snow storm that was threatening in the horizon when a raspy voice recited close to my ears :
The sun that brief December day
Rose cheerless over hills of gray,
And, darkly circled, gave at noon
A sadder light than waning moon.
From the poem Snow-Bound by John Greenleaf Whittier.
I grew up hearing poetry and songs of Tagore my entire childhood, however, poetry does not get as much attention here as it did when I was a student. My delight at hearing someone reciting lines extempore to describe the gloom outside was perhaps palpable. The speaker was an older lady who pointed outside and said, “Isn’t that how it looks?” We got talking of course. We talked about her long teaching career, we talked about my initiation into poetry at an early age. We both lamented the dearth of poetry in people’s lives. She complimented my Indian jewelry and I complimented her ability to remember lines and use them aptly. She left with books but our conversation did not leave my memory.
An elderly gentleman came to me with a research question. During the course of our interaction, talk about his recently deceased wife came up. The research question took a backseat while he pulled out a gorgeous and happy picture of her and talked about the vivacity and life she projected on those around her. He could not believe she was no more. Their children give him devices and smart phones to stay in touch but he has no use for them. He likes to come to the library and talk to real people. I could tell he was lonely without his partner of many years and he wanted someone to listen to his memories of her. We found what he was looking for while he talked and I listened.
A very elderly man came one day wanting help in finding the cost of his house because did not have the technical expertise to look up on the computer. I don’t think I deserved all the gratitude he showed me after I helped him look up websites.
I helped a woman get information on hearing aids because she was losing her hearing. She asked my name. I gave her my name and said, “You don’t have to ask for me if you need help. Anybody here will be happy to help you.” She said, “No, I want to write in Customer feedback, how helpful you have been.” She did.
While doing my job, I seem to touch people’s lives as they touch mine. This is what life is all about. Interaction with fellow humans, exchange of ideas, accepting differences and being graceful in relationships with each other.
There are countless example of human connection and kindness in my personal life and my professional life. So I recounted those as I wrote to my niece. I gave her the world I see, I gave her MY reality and told her the driving force in this world, despite all that she sees and hears, is still love. Her job, along with her peers, will be to spread the love to every corner of the earth and I keep the faith that they will. In a few generations, the playing field will be level.