Almost five years ago at Christmas time, I chose to honor my Dad (who had passed away six months earlier) by donating books to the library in Allentown’s Central Elementary School. Instead of buying gifts for co-workers that year, I donated the books in their names, in memory of my dad.
I can’t tell you why I chose Central School. I have no personal affiliation there, nor did my father. I didn’t know anyone – students or faculty - at the school. But I do know my children live in a home where they always had an extensive library of books at their disposal. (One of my earliest decisions about raising kids was to never say no to a request for a book.) I also know that Central faces challenges with many students – or their families - that simply don’t exist in a suburban school setting. It broke my heart to imagine some children not having books on a shelf at home. Maybe by adding a few to the school’s library, even just one child would begin a lifelong passion for reading.
All I can tell you is that on that day – the day I dropped of my co-workers books - I watched a young boy walk into school alone. Several years later, I can still picture him clearly. What struck me that morning was his look of absolute, unquestionable enthusiasm for the day. He looked eager and alert, and, yes, thrilled to be walking up those steps. I wondered: Is this the best part of his day? Is this where he feels secure? Stimulated? Safe? Challenged - in a good way?
He’s stayed in my mind’s eye. I wonder about him – five years later. I wonder about his eager look. I wonder if middle school generates the same positive emotions I saw on his face that day.
In a recent column, I made a request of readers, something I had not done in the eight years I’d been writing for the newspaper. To mark a milestone birthday this year, I planned to donate ten books to the Central library and asked readers to join me. My goal was to add total of 50 books to the school’s library.
Just about six weeks later, I’m honored and delighted to report that according to the Central Elementary Librarian, donations have come in that have more than doubled my goal. The school receives books daily donated in my name, which brings tears to my eyes.
In addition to the lovely thank you note I received from the Librarian, I was touched by sincere notes from some of the students. As they thanked me, each one wished me a happy birthday and expressed his or her feelings about reading. Every note was charming, unique and expressive, but one of them told me everything I needed to know: “That was nice of you to do. You are friends with Central.” Another wrote: "I'm so glad that people are nice enough to give books to the school."
To everyone who wrote me an email expressing your own plans to donate, to everyone who gave me books (or cash) to donate, to everyone who sent me a card or a note through the mail and told me about your plans to make a donation, I want to say thank you very much for your support and your help. Your generosity is touching and overwhelming.
In the perfectly chosen words of the students:
“That was nice of you to do. You are friends with Central.”
"I'm so glad that people are nice enough to donate books to the school."
I'm so very glad, too.