I was working in a library while going to university. It seemed like the perfect place to work. It was quiet and orderly. While stacking books I got to think about things. Things I was learning in school. It allowed me to reflect on my studies and motivated me to do more work on my subjects.
I would work there at night and on the weekends to help pay for my education. Mostly I did book shelving and shelf reading. Shelf reading is when you read a section of books to see if any are out of place. Sometimes I got to work on the circulation desk. That’s were you loan books out for a period of three weeks and then they get returned to the library. I enjoyed my job it was manual but still peaceful. It was a change from the hours of studying I was doing in university.
At the library, in the summer we would play games. Not many people in the library in the summer. There was no air conditioning but still rather cool and dewy in the place. One of the games we played was shards. Mostly on the subject of movie titles. We would waste some time playing games and the days would melt away. We were mostly students that got along well together. Of course, we would recommend books to each other. I remember someone recommending a book of “Common Prayer” to me. This book helped me pray better.
I read a lot of great books while working in the library. It wasn't one in particular that shaped my thinking. But an array of authors and books that left an impression on me. Here are a few of the ones that left lasting thoughts with me. A library book, the musty smell, the dust on the spine of the book, were all part of the charm. I would say that working in a library increased my exposure to the world. It also made me enjoy reading just purely for the sake of it. Which broadened my education immensely.
I’d browse books, and read a few if I had the time. I remember reading Ayn Rand “The Atlas Shrugged”, and “ The Making of a Doctor” by Martin Shapiro. Also a number of titles by Margaret Atwood , Alice Munro, and, Anita Brookner.
Then I came across a book called “This I Believe”. It’s a wonderful book about different people writing about what they believe. The first piece is about being cool to the pizza dude. If your not your karma will be off and life won’t treat you well. It’s an amazing essay and has valuable insight into the world and life itself. Another essay I remember was written by John McCain. It was about his time as a pow. One of his captures helped him and then drew the sign of the cross in the sand. It is also a very powerful essay.
It got me thinking about what I believe? I believe there are no such thing as coincidences. That every thing happens for a reason. It may not be clear to you at the time but Jesus is in control of our lives. I remember getting up one morning and rushing to work. I was driving pretty fast when my car spun out of control. It was a four lane thorough fare. I ended up on the other side of the road facing on coming traffic. It was also rush hour in the morning. But for some reason there were no cars on either side of the road. I got my car pointed in the right direction and started to drive when traffic began to resume. I prayed after that incident and asked God to continue to protect me.
In the book "This I believe" there are essays about people who don't believe in God. The stance is that this world is enough Or is it? I would not like to go to sleep at night and think no one is watching over me or when I pray think no one is listening. I like to think that the universe and everything in it was designed that way. What happens to us is not random but meaningful. I don't say this lightly. I've had my share of heartache. When I get up in the morning and greet the day. I smile at the sun for I know God has blessed me with another day.
I also read a “Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving. Owen is such a like-able character in the book. I remember one part of the book in particular. It said that someone was screaming like a banshee. In Irish folklore this indicates that a loved one will die soon. My mother was Irish and she use to use that expression. She’d say your screamingly like a banshee. I don’t think she knew what she was saying. Or where the phrase originated from. But none the less my mother died. She was only forty two years old. When I read that in the Irving book it made me wonder if using that expression had anything to do with it. You must be careful what you say. For someone is always listening.
We were interested in french books since we were in Montreal. “Madame Bovary” was a favorite of ours. It wasn’t until I saw the movie that I understood the extent of her mental illness. Even though she ends up killing herself in the end that point was really brought home in the movie. Another novel about the french brought home the point that french women are usually slim. They don’t kid themselves about gaining weight. They don’t compliment each other on the extra pounds they put on. In the US, things are very different. We have built a whole industry around the plus size woman. When doctors will tell you that being overweight increases your chances for disease.
The french know how to live. They know that it is not all about work. That life is more important than making money. When it is all said and done you can’t take it with you.
I remember reading Maya Angelou and she was talking about filling with rage over a departed loved one. But then she concentrates on what she can learn from that person’s life. The lessons, the memories, the love, are all still with us if we focus on our loved one.
This is what I believe, that vacations and time to reflect are very important. When you get older your not wishing that you spent more time at work. You’re thinking about the people you’ve loved. The time you spent with your family. The parts of the world you had the opportunity to see. I think we should grow old gracefully. I don’t believe in plastic surgery but I do think we should take care of ourselves. That means eating right, exercise, and, mental stimulation. Whatever hobby that entails like reading, writing, meditation, painting, needle point, etc.