07 November 2010

Why I Do What I Do

At work one morning, I was working on what we call a request list (or a pull list). This is a list of all the books patrons have requested over the last 24 hours, either in person at one of our service desks or at home via our website. It's a nifty and convenient service. Usually first thing in the morning we go around with the list and pull
the books requested. When we scan them into the computer, it knows someone has asked for it and prints a slip accordingly. We then send the book and request slip up the the circulation department where the patron can pick up the item(s). 

On this particular morning I was going down through the list when I became aware of a child singing. I tend to be so focused, at times, that I block out what is happening around me - sometimes much concentration is needed to ferret out a wandering book. So on this occasion, she was well into her song before I started to pay attention. 

The child was no more than 2 or 2 1/2 years old. She was building with a toy we have in the department and was singing as she worked, a Sunday School song called I Am A Child of God. Her voice was crystal clear, and she remembered the words remarkably well for her age. Her entire attitude was one of peaceful contentment and exquisite confidence in her world in that moment. I stood spellbound, hand outstretched to pick a book, but unable to complete the motion, lest by moving I break the spell. 

As a laborer among children, one is elaborately careful not to invade children's safety zone. I did not move closer to hear, nor more than glance at the child, lest I make her uncomfortable or self-conscious. Even had I been inclined to come nearer, her aura of almost sacred purity would have forbade it. This, I thought, must be how angels sound. And the goosebumps on my arms must be how folks like me would probably react to an angel in the room. 

I recently applied to another department in the library for a job for which I was (false modesty aside :-) overwhelmingly qualified. I was disappointed not to have gotten the job. But over the next few weeks, several things occurred which have made me reevaluate my disappointment: a child, exhuberantly happy about the book I found him, rushed up and hugged my leg. Another offered me his hand as we (including his mom)  walked to the place where his book would be found. An older child who had been in some minor mischief in the department in the past began talking to me - short conversations, to be sure, but talking! Even outside of work, children approached me or spoke to me in department stores and other public places. Ever careful to note the presence of parents, I was  totally charmed that these children found me approachable. 

One young lad, shopping with his parents, indicated that he had a nifty new hat and waited for me to express my admiration; of course, I obliged. After a few seconds of discussion about the superhero who appeared on the said chapeau, he went over to his parents, and I continued shopping. But shortly he came back to me and  said,  very matter-of-factly, "It's my birthday soon and I am having a party. Would you like to come?"  I am not sure I have been more complimented by an invitation in all my life. Of course, I had to very politely decline with the fact that I must return to work. But I assured him it sounded like great fun. (I could, at this point, sense his parents relax a little.) It was a totally charming exchange, and I have to say it made my day.

I find myself feeling that I belong in my present job, at least for sometime longer. There are things I need to do here, things I need to learn about the virtues of simplicity, generosity, kindness and goodness that are your children. 

I feel changed. After all, I have heard the voices of angels. 

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