My overachieving friend works at a library. She also leads a ministry at a correctional facility. These 2 places/missions are very different until they’re not, and it’s in that space, where the purpose of each is exactly the same, that they can hold hands. The library has books to get rid of, and the correctional facility needs books for the residents. Perfect match, right? Of course, so my friend with the giant heart asks if, instead of putting the books in the garbage, she put them in her car. The right answer is “Yes,” but that’s not the truth. The truth is that the library says, “No.” As I heard this story, my ears burned and my head hurt. I was outraged, and I was happy to be swaddled in my rage. I already know that organizations get so much wrong, that structures fail so often, and it’s easy to deal with my preconceptions.
But this story isn’t over, it takes 2 unexpected turns (well, 1 sort of unexpected, and 1 completely shocking) before it ends and the men have the books.
First, the sort of unexpected. The library’s reason for their ‘No,’ is that the books “weren’t good enough for the men.”
Sort of unexpected, but not unexpected at all, if you stop to consider that answer. How often do we not act/say/give because it’s not good enough, because we’re not good enough? And those things remain undone, words remain unsaid. There’s a story in the Scriptures where there are thousands of people, and nothing to eat. No one knows what to do about that, except for Jesus, because no one has enough for this enormous task. However, there’s a boy who doesn’t understand how the world works, who doesn’t understand reality, who is too young and dumb to really be helpful. This hopelessly naive boy brings 5 small loaves and 2 fish and offers it to them. Jesus takes them and feeds everyone (!!) and has leftovers (!!!!!!).
How about instead of deciding what is and isn’t good enough, if we just take what we have and offer it up and let Jesus turn it into something wonderful and amazing? How about that? How about instead of deciding if we’re good enough, we just push all we are into the middle of the table and see what happens? Maybe, after Jesus gets His hands on them, our small loaves and fishes and tattered paperbacks will be exactly what the crowd needs.
This excuse is transparent and small, right? Just words. Only the library administration wasn’t finished, content to just let my friend walk away dejected. She said, “They’re not good enough, how about if we get some new books and give them, instead?”
Shocking, right? Like I was saying earlier, sometimes organizations and structures succeed, give so much more than an individual could…
I have a box on my porch that we intend to take to the Blue Mountain thrift store. We haven’t taken it yet, because every time I look at it, it looks more and more like garbage. Maybe I shouldn’t only give my junk, the things I don’t like, the leftovers. Maybe I should give from the top, the first, the best. Maybe I should give you the first bite, right from the middle, instead of the crusts, the gristle, what I leave when I’m too full. Probably. Absolutely.
Now, I don’t know if actions/words/things are or aren’t good enough, are or aren’t garbage. I don’t know if I should destroy all organizations and structures in fiery explosions (Fight Club style) or just annihilate my preconceptions.
The point is that I want to scream from the mountaintops how much I love this library administrator, their books, and especially my friend’s heart.
(One more thing: This story ends not with new donated books, but with the library paying my friend to take them there. Seriously! Ha!)