The Gift That Can't Stop Giving

The number of people who want to help me, especially in June and July, is truly amazing. Is “amazing” the word I want/ I have been reproved at times for the faces I make when people offer me help. They are, after all, doing something that is warm and human and generous.

One of the problems is how often they want to help me do something I had no intention of doing.

In the past couple of weeks alone I have had people advise me on where I could buy rubber stamps to mark the sides of the boxes instead of just writing on them with a marking pen (So whenever I pack a box I can riffle through 70 different rubber stamps), how moving the boxes to another part of the room would help me keep track of how many I have (I didn’t quite understand that one), and how, by marking the price on four pages instead of one, I could make it easier for customers to find it.

One bit of Helpful Advice that comes up every couple of years is generally provoked when somebody sees me throwing a few boxes of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books into the recycling bin. “You’re throwing those away!” comes the cry.

“Ayeh,” says I, knowing what must come and powerless to prevent it.

“Those are really in good shape, and people like them,” says the shocked witness.

“True. But the supply exceeds the demand,” I reply. “If we stocked these, we’d need another room to display them, and another truck to haul away the leftovers.

Sometimes they’re actually wringing their hands at this point. “But somebody could put those to use! They’re so simplified….”

“They’re just abridged, not simplified,” I say.

No one ever hears me. “So simplified that some English As a Second Language Class, or an Adult Literacy Class could really use them!”

“We used to have a class that did,” I explain.

“See?” This is a triumph. “So why throw them away when someone can use them?”

“Do you know of a class that wants them?”

“No, but you could check online and find one.”

“Would you be willing to come get a load of Condensed Books and drive them over to the school every week?”

“I don’t have a car. But you could find somebody who does.”

“And if this somebody can’t come every single week, would you store them for me after I sort them out and pile them up?”

“No, but this is such a big library, you ought to be able to find space.”

“Ah.” I nod sagely, which is a thing I learned to do in Library School. “So I can find room for books I’m not going to sell while I look for somebody to haul them after I’ve found somebody who wants them.”

“Exactly!” they cry, ecstatic at having solved the problem for me. And then they walk away without even offering to help pull the books out of the recycling bin.

Please don’t send me your Reader’s Digest Condensed Books. I have nothing against them at all except that they’re easier to collect than they are to sell. Anyway, with the Newberry’s permission, I am giving the other cultural institutions in Chicago a chance to become the central clearing house for ‘em. And if you’d like a few people who are handy at giving advice, I’ll send them over to help.

ADOPTION UPDATE: There has been excitement on the track, and the Shakespearean quote now leads the field, with Debussy second, and Mozart tied with the Dancing Baptist for third. Coming up on the outside, though, is one of the Father’s Day Specials: the Newberry’s baseball card collection. I’m feeling a little sorry for Herman Melville: he was a whale of a writer. 

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