We often have predispositions for “how we think things are” and I love when something small knocks us off that center.
Over the years of providing a pick-up service for donations to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore we found that many people hide books in the boxes of donations. It is not an item we accept, yet it seemed to be an item that people wanted to donate. We tried selling them for awhile but even at fifty cents a book they languished on the shelf and took up valuable room.
We decided to create a “book swap” area in the store. It is a space that is dedicated to the books we receive. The management of the program lies with the public. If someone takes a book and does not leave one we just think it is better for them to have the book. There are books going out and coming back all day long.
Our store is located 50 yards from a freeway off ramp. There is a homeless population in the area and we often see them pan handling. They are respectful of the store and often use our restrooms and we seldom have any issues that need to be addressed.
What has been a bit eye opening though has been their interest in our books. I will see the women that stands at the 13th South off ramp take a book and swap it out two days later for another. I often wonder if she is getting to the point that she has read them all and looks forward to the day another batch arrives.
Did we ever really stop to think this person was a child once raising her hand in grade school to answer the teacher’s question? Do we picture her doing homework at the kitchen table when she was young? Are we predisposed to think the homeless would not be interested in books? It is our hope they will all have a decent place to call home one day. In the meantime we hope the books bring some comfort. The “book swap” concept was a good decision. Someone thoughtfully sent us these books never knowing they would go towards such a great purpose.