Looking out our living room window, I noticed two young women looking through the book box that I built and mounted on a stand out front of our house last spring. Not only were they looking for books to take, but they also were bringing some to put in it. I had been standing at the window and had seen them driving up from at least a block away.
One of our pastimes in our semi-retirement is to go for a country drive. We will go into the different communities, stop for coffee or maybe a lunch and just take in the sights it has to offer. In this way we learn more about Central Alberta and garner many new ideas for our own life here in Red Deer.
On one such drive to the Village of Gull Lake, we had a wonderful lunch at The Wooden Shoe, a small general store with a lot of Dutch treats and a restaurant. Of course, being first generation Dutch/Canadian, that would be an automatic stop. Then as we drove around the village we saw a couple of book boxes along the roadside and the idea took shape. So when we got home I immediately set about making one.
When we first put it up, I had fears that it might be inviting damage or vandalism being that we are on such a busy street, but instead of damage, our little book box has been visited almost daily without a problem. We did not know what to expect as far as the quantity of books required, but when we first put it up we had it about half full of books, and within a week of installation the box has been full and has stayed full ever since; sometimes overflowing.
One fellow knocked on our door to comment on it, and when he found that I had made it, he requested that I make one for him as he lives in a different area and thought it would work there as well. On many occasions, while working in the yard, different people have come to check it out; often leaving with a book or two, and we have had some wonderful conversations with them.
The book sharing concept has been around as long as there have been books for sure, but I never imagined the pleasure that could be derived from having a box in your front yard. It also teaches us about the reading habits of different people. Books returned or donated have included, junior classics, spy thrillers, self-help books and westerns, both in soft and hard cover.
This whole concept of sharing made me think of the folks downtown. Even though they can be harsh, deceptive and self-centered, especially through their addictions and lifestyles, they do something that is unexpected. They share with each other; clothing, food, smokes, alcohol and a lot of other things. Not needles so much anymore, but they used to; now they get a whole bunch of new ones and then just discard them where they use them. Whenever they have the finances, like right after payday, they will even to a degree share their drugs.
Canada has a very rare distinction which is recognized worldwide relating to sharing. This is not for books or anything else; this beautiful country has the record of the most donated dollars per capita of any country in the world.
So as I stand at my living room window and observe different people coming, on foot or in a vehicle, to take, give or just look at what is available, this little invention has proven to bring some connections to the community.
It proves that the best in people can be brought about through the use of all things, a Book Box!
Chris Salomons is the kitchen co-ordinator at Potter’s Hands in Red Deer.