Annals in “WTH Were You Thinking??” – Potty Training

It’s been my contention that grad school prepares you for NOTHING you encounter as a public librarian. Academic librarian, sure. Archivist, without a doubt. But none of the “working in a public library” classes which I took could have steeled me for what I’ve experienced. (And, I wasn’t even planning to work in a public library. I had every intention of selling out and working in private industry. Sadly, Lehman Bros. decided to blow up the economy right as I graduated, so the kibosh was put on that grand plan.)

Most of my patrons are lovely, well-balanced people. Some are raving fruitcakes. And then  some seem well-balanced and lovely, and then they do something which leaves you in slack-jawed stupefaction. In the first of a series I’ve helpfully entitled Annals in “WTH Were You Thinking??”, I present “Potty training.”

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On compassion

I’ve seen him at the freeway entrance on my way home from work for a couple of weeks. His sign reads “Homeless, hungry, please help.” I carry cash in my car, but the timing has never worked out correctly for me to give him a little something.

It finally—barely—did. I waved him over, before the light changed, and gave him a couple of bucks. He smiled, said “God bless you”, and took the money. Then from the sidewalk he smiled again and again said “Bless you.” I smiled back.

There were maybe twenty cars lined up waiting to get onto the freeway, and I was the only one who reached out to this man and gave him money. I’m not judging them. Humans are a varied lot. And I’m not holding myself out as a paragon of virtue. As with most people, I have faults that t’would be better had my mother not borne me.

But, I’ve lived 46 years on this earth. And I’ve learned a few things. I’m not the same person I was 20 years ago. I would hope I wouldn’t be.

Many would see my act of charity as contributing to the problem. If you enable them, they won’t get the help they need. You’re just putting a band-aid on the problem. You’re just making things worse.

He could use the money to buy drugs. He could use the money to get drunk. Those are possibilities. I don’t know him.

But I don’t need to know him.

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A Mass for the Dead

(Cross-posted on The Obama Diary.)

For the dead, we say, “Amen”. And for the living.
There are too many dead, and the living are riven.

Every day, a new horror, a new loss of innocence,
And the night-dimmed tide swallows us.

There is no innocence; this is a fallen world,
And men of evil revel in destruction.

When is it enough? It’s never enough.
Violence has an army of reasons,

And peace seems to be an idea
Honored more in the breach than the observance.

This is not your heritage; it is evil.
This is not your freedom; it is slavery.

Do that which you would have done unto you;
Flee from that which is harmful to all.

The answer is there, to be teased out
Of life, hard life, the only life we have.

Remember the dead, for they speak from the earth,
Pleading, “Let us not be in vain.”

A life sinking slowly

As a librarian, I encounter all sorts of people, from the smugly self-satisfied to those barely clinging on. This is a story of the latter.

R. led a wonderful life. He was involved in baseball. He’s met presidents and celebrities. He flew around the world.

And now he’s losing his mind.

He doesn’t remember how to do the simplest things, things which he used to do with no help. For example, he will type a letter at home on his laptop, put it on his thumb drive, bring it to the library, and print it out.

However, for the past 2 weeks he’s been bringing in his laptop. Why? Because he no longer remembers how to transfer a file from the laptop to the memory stick. He needs help doing that every time. And then, once he’s on one of our computers so that he can print it out, he needs help on how to bring up the document. He used to do all these things without our assistance.

I’ve seen photos of him with Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, the Three Stooges. He milled around with the great and good. And now he scrapes by with enough money to pay his rent and buy bologna. I’ve had to loan him a few bucks on a couple of occasions because he didn’t have enough gas in the tank to get him home. And now, senescence is creeping in. His memory is shot.

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