Have you returned a book to a library in Jefferson County lately? There is a new system – a conveyor belt. Here is how it works. You wait for a green light, put one book at a time on the belt and watch it disappear into a waiting bin. This process takes a few seconds. A computer screen tells you the book has been received, the green light returns and you continue checking books in. This system promises to yield faster check-in times and ensure that patrons’ records are promptly updated. The trick is, you have to be patient, and you can only put one book at a time on the belt. Simple huh? Right.
I was at my local library the day the system debuted. Despite attempts by library assistants to help patrons understand the new system, there was grumbling, sighing and all around discontent. One man loudly exclaimed, “This won’t work well for patrons. We are Americans. We don’t like to wait and we don’t like change.” O-kay.
When my turn came, the green light went on. I put my book on the belt, it moved to the waiting bin, and the system shut down. Yikes. This was not met with applause, I can tell you. Instead, I became the focal point of what promised to be an all out riot due to suspicion that I purposefully caused a snag in the schedules of the entitled, busy Americans, without time or tolerance for change. If the stapler runs out of staples or the copier gums up, it’s on my watch. Machines hate me. And I certainly wasn’t winning any votes for Prom Queen with fellow citizens that day either.
Mercifully, I was rescued by a library technician. She reset the machine (green light on) and brought me into the building to investigate the problem. “I’ll take care of this,” she assured me. As she walked away from me, a rather tall man came out from a room I assumed housed the book bin. (Okay, okay everyone old enough to be in the fifth grade is taller than me. But seriously, this guy was big.) He was shaking my book over his head and bellowing at everyone within hearing distance, “Who checked this book in? It is not properly coded for the new system.”
After admitting I was the offender he set his eyes on me with a fury that said it was lunchtime and he was glad someone delivered Italian food. He looked at me no doubt wondering if my parents had the same last name before they were married. Again the suspicion was aroused as to my true motive in presenting an unacceptable offering to the gods of library check-in. I know he mumbled something, but I couldn’t quite understand him. I guess clenched teeth prevent one from proper verbal articulation. Probably for the best, I thought. He turned on one heel and disappeared through a door to a room that apparently swallows up big people. Was that a vein popping out on the side of his head?
I was left to stand alone and contemplate the fate of my future library privileges. Would I be on a list of suspected saboteurs? Would I be relegated to only reading library material during business hours in a quiet, window-lined room by myself? Would my library card be revoked? Worse yet, would I be subjected to public flogging and forced to rad only a Kindle? In order to produce such a reaction, my crime must have been serious indeed.
I stood to one side and watched the antics of the gathering crowd outside. But my peripheral vision remained locked on the door through which the disagreeable giant stormed only moments before. Although there was a distinct green hue to his face, he was anything but jolly. My silent observance was interrupted by the library tech who said she had taken care of everything and that it had just been a really stressful few weeks. Her tone pleaded for my understanding as we both looked toward the door that separated us from El Snarl-o. She tried to assure me that this was not the usual run of business. Things were just very tense at our local reading establishment.
In some ways the scene was comical, but I saw it as a reflection of my prayer time with God that morning. I went into prayer earlier that day hurried, snarling and upset. I started dropping things down in groups because I really didn’t have time for this one-by-one thing. I fumed and fussed because I could not figure out how life got so messy. Immediately assuming responsibility for the tangles in others’ lives around me, (yes folks, I AM that powerful), I began to justify myself to God and paint a picture of a gloomy future. To top it off, I resisted God’s answer because I didn’t want to change my heart on a certain matter. I was right and wanted God to agree with me. Anyone out there ever do this, or is it just me? I ask pardon if I assume and offend.
As I watched this scenario playing inside and outside the library building, I fought down the rumbling laughter that was threatening to erupt from me. God loves to teach me through metaphors and visual examples (a game we play, you see). I realized AGAIN that all I ever have to do is come with patience into His presence, willing to change and learn. When life doesn’t flow smoothly, or things happen that are outside my control, I can wait in the safety of His love and be assured he will “take care of this.” I don’t need to justify myself, assume blame, be fearful of or react to the behavior of others. Most times it is not at all about me but about stressors I am unaware of that affect how others conduct themselves.
I walked out of the library without fear or guilt and moved to discuss my new enlightenment with one of my best friends – my 1969 VW Beetle, Lynard. As I drove toward home I was stopped at a red light, and I took the opportunity to pray. I confessed and repented of my own impatience and my propensity to function from a fear base. I prayed for the angry, stressed, tall man. I prayed too for the very kind but weary library tech and all the patrons who felt they were being unjustly inconvenienced by the new system. I thanked God that I live in a community that has a library and a country that does not restrict my reading choices. I acknowledged the blessing of an education that categorizes me among the privileged literate of the world.
A honking horn behind me called my attention back to the task at hand. I gazed up at the green light. Ahh, it was time for Lynard and me to proceed on the conveyor belt toward home.
Copyright September 2011
Lakewood, CO 80401
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“Dolores, Like the River,” available at Westbow Press, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and all major online retailers. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page
The award-winning “Jesus in Shorts: Twenty-five Shorts Stories of Life-Changing Jesus Moments,” available now at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. If you live in the U.S. and would like an autographed copy sent directly to you, click on the tab for buying books on my home page. I will ship it to you after your purchase.