The Power of Kindness

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The local YWCA in Titusville does a great job of spreading a positive message to all in our community.

I believe in the power of kindness. I believe that no matter what kind of evil or injustice we may face directly in front of us that the thing that’s gonna win out in the end is kindness. My statement may sound a bit naive, but after 36.5 years on this planet I haven’t found anything better than kindness. I’ve tried being angry, I’ve tried throwing punches, and I’ve tried to tapping into the dark side of things (you know, like Star Wars kind of stuff) and while those methods have produced results, those results did not last and actually cause more harm than good. With that acknowledged, I pledge allegiance to power of kindness.

With that said, I’d like to share a recent piece that I wrote for the LIANZA (Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa) Library Life publication titled Libraries: A Global Necessity (click here for the PDF and scroll to page 21). It nicely sums up my approach to the current state of the USA and public libraries in general and how I believe that through kindness and great customer service we will provide for our citizens.

I highly suggest you take the time out of your day and read the rest of the current issue of Library Life as well. This is my favorite Library related publication out there. It does a great job of inspiring me to be both a better librarian and a human being with every issue that is published. This month’s issue has some great pieces by Cath Sheard and Fiona Kerr to name a few.

 

Be Kind. Be Positive. Make a Difference.

Over the past week I have been thinking about how every weekday at around 2:20pm EST between 2010-2013 that the Portland Public Library would fill up with anywhere between 30-70 teens. I recall the dramatic change in the library, and no I’m not talking about how the sound level would increase. What I’m talking about is the energy, the passion, and the kindness that came into the library every day with these teens. These teens needed the library to connect, to share, to socialize, and to learn. The library gave them a safe and welcoming space to do all of that, and that space continues to thrive and offer the same wonderful and excellent services to many new teens today. It is a beautiful thing.

Around 75% of the teen population that came into the library back in those days were not born in the USA. They came from countries like Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, and Sudan to name a few. They came from countries where their lives were torn apart, their families were displaced, and in the words of a former co-worker “they came from places where one of the first things they learned to say was “please don’t kill my family.”” The people that came to us needed the library but more importantly they needed the United States of America, a place where they had the opportunity to live their lives and pursue their dreams.

I have been thinking about about the teens I worked with at the Portland Public Library today all this weekend and today as I take in all of the news about the travel bans enacted by our government here in the USA. I think about those teens and their families and hope they are safe and well. I worry about them a lot these days. I also think about the future teens and their families from other countries that might come to the USA someday seeking a place to live their lives and pursue their dreams. I want to help them, but how?

It is a time of great unease and there is a lot going on is very troubling. Sometimes it gets to a point where it wears me down, but then I realize that I can’t let it defeat me. I have to stay strong….we have to stay strong. The way we can do that is to continue to promote kindness and positivity in all of our actions.  Kindness and positivity go a long way. This is one way we can help those that we care about.

Andromeda Yelton’s latest post (quoting the ALA Code of Ethics) reminds me of what I need to do every day as a librarian….I need to “provide the highest level of service to all library users.” I need to be there for everyone in my community. And I need to continue to be there for those that I worked with in the past and those that I will work with in the future. This is another way that we can help those that we care about.

We each have our own way of making a positive and kind impact on our own world. I urge everyone reading this to think about what they can do to make someone else’s life better these days. You can have an impact!

(title from Andromeda Yelton’s post, read it here: We provide the highest level of service to all library users. Thank you Andromeda for this post)

The Next Few Years #sharegoodstuff

Don’t worry: this is not a political post. I don’t care who you voted for, and I don’t care to discuss politics with anyone.

What I’m gonna talk about is the next few years and what I believe to be one of the biggest things all of us in this country (and the world to a greater extent) need to practice and learn more about: how to be kind to each other, how to listen to each other, and how to make real and positive changes in our world.

I believe that all of this starts in our heads and in our hearts. First, we must be willing to see the positive parts of our daily lives. When we see those, we see hope and love all around us. Our world changes and instead of being a place where the day-to-day slog happens, it becomes a place of opportunity.

Once this is established, we can have better interactions with other people from day to day. They can be kinder and more focused. We can have the patience to listen to each other and try to understand each other. When we try to understand each other we contribute to a bigger picture: a kinder and more understanding world.

Every action we take creates a ripple. If we act in a more positive and understanding way, I feel like the sum of all of these actions will add up to something great. It is a big thing to think about, but I believe in it. I believe in it because I’ve seen it daily in the public libraries where I have worked. The sharing and borrowing of information creates positive ripple in the world. When you say the world library, most people smile. They see it as a safe and welcoming place. It took years and years of these positive actions to build up those smiles. These positive ripples work.

I’m just one human being, but I promise to be kinder to everyone I met. I promise to listen more closely to everyone that I interact with. I promise to take more actions to make real and positive changes in our world. I promise to #sharegoodstuff.

 

Something To Think About

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Quote by Judd Apatow from this NYT article

I read this quote in a NYT article yesterday and felt like I had to share it. I think it nicely sums up something that I’ve been trying to articulate for awhile now. It is very easy to get caught up in the internet and all things digital. The internet connects all of us and provides us with a nearly infinite source of entertainment. It is a great place to be! I’ve seen myself and pretty much everyone around me get sucked into it from time to time. This is ok! It is perfectly normal and fine to be pulled to the internet.

At the same time, I believe in balance and the flipside is that we need to remember that our actions on the internet also need to be balanced with our actions in the physical world. I have begun asking myself how I can translate every tweet/share/post that I am a part of on the internet into something else in the physical world. These things don’t have to be big personal acts…they can be as simple as holding the door for another person, saying hello to a stranger, or just simply being kind in any moment.

“This is Your Library” by Gary Wasdin of the King County Library System

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(you can read the original post and the comments here)

I’ve been struggling with my place in a post 2016 election world, both at home and in my work as a librarian. I know that now (more than ever) is the time to stand up for what I believe in and what is good in the world. I totally totally totally get that. I’m shocked and disgusted at a possible world where peoples beliefs and rights may be taken away.  I’ve never been the kind of person to get louder and political over things. The message that I want to put out into the world is one of kindness and love, and to do that I believe in acting in a kind and loving way at all times. I don’t want to yell or fight. I want to get there through kindness and conversation.

CURRENT STATUS: I just don’t know how to say what I want to say anymore. If I approach things from my typical kind and loving way, I fear that I’m not doing enough. If I approach things from a louder and more aggressive standpoint, I feel as if I am no longer myself.

The message you see above from King County Library System’s Director Gary Wasdin was great for me to see because it really captured everything that I’ve wanted to say over the past few months, especially in regards to libraries. I want the library that I am a part of to remain open to everyone, and to those people who chose to enter our building a place of discovery, knowledge, and freedom. I want to be part of the human experience with you and have a conversation about the things around us in a civil and polite manner.

Thank you for listening and reading.

 

 

Take a Moment and Remind Yourself That You Do Great Work

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I know, I know….“us librarians don’t get paid enough to deal with the kind of stuff we deal with.” It’s the same thing with educators. And a whole slew of other professions doing things in their communities that make a positive impact on the world. Nobody doing this work has ever been paid enough for what they do and that’s just something we’re gonna have to deal with. I’m not here to talk about that.

If you’re upset, tired, or just downright depressed with your work as a librarian, I urge you to take a moment right now and remind yourself that you do great work that has a positive impact on your community. It may not be today that you do that work, but it’ll happen sometime soon. And you’ve also already probably done that work in the very recent past.

It took the note that you see in the image above for me to remember that I’m part of something that’s making a positive impact on someone in the community. It is nice to have these kinds of reminders every once in awhile.

Food Stamps, the Feeling of Failure, Student Loans, and Life as a Library

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Last week, Haley and I applied for food stamps. Our family, which has been going on strong for 11 years and now includes 2 awesome kids, Haley’s mom, our dog Sonic, 3 chickens, and 2 rabbits, have hit a period in our journey where we couldn’t do it without help anymore.

I know that there’s a reason I pay taxes. They are there to help….my family and I, others in need, and more. This is one of those situations where we needed help. I understand this very well. I am all for taxes that help out others in my community. We are all in this together and together we can do amazing things. At the same time there’s a stigma that comes from applying for and using food stamps: that somehow you’ve failed, you’re lazy, or you’re just downright an average human being. I try to have a healthy mind and outlook on everything, but I’ve gotta admit that I’ve fallen into this pit recently. I’m a 36 year old human being, I’ve got a wonderful job which I’m pretty good at, an amazing and happy family, and I’ve done some other things that I’m also really proud of. But here I am at this point where I feel like a failure just because I need some help. It shouldn’t be this way.

We’ve used the support of food stamps before. When Haley and I first got married, we were finishing up college. We both had part time jobs in addition to our full time school workload. The food stamps helped out a lot. Back then, the feeling of being a complete failure because you’re on food stamps wasn’t as big as it is now. Having a family and needing food stamps feels like you’ve hit the bottom. I think about this feeling that I’m having and then I think about all of the others out there who are on food stamps, especially those with families just like mine. What happens when you have all of those people out there in the same situation? You have millions of people out there feeling that they’ve lost all hope, that they’re somehow pathetic, and that they’ve failed. You have millions of people who feel like shit just for wanting to make sure their family doesn’t go hungry. When you have that many people feeling bad in the country, those bad vibes add up. It can’t be proved, but I really think the general malaise surrounding things in our country is somehow related to feelings like this.

On our end, I know that student loan debt is crippling. We’re both on programs that give us flexibility with our payments (income based repayment). While these do help, it’s still tough to have around $100K of debt total hanging over your head just because you went to college, got an education, and pursued a career in something you felt could make a difference in the world. I also understand the argument “well, you went into college knowing full well what would happen.” I’ve heard this many times before. I can see it from two sides: of course I knew (something) about how I’d be in debt once I left college. When I went, they told us about it. Did they tell us the specifics? Sort of kind of maybe not. I started college in 1998 and at that time it was just “oh yeah, you’ll have some debt but it’ll be OK because you’ll be a college graduate.” Most of us became the first great generation of student loan debt holders. And we’re still here! * Can America Afford This Approach to Solving Student Loan Debt? (it’s behind a paywall, but it is a great read) by Haley Sweetland Edwards is a great read that sums up the collective “wow, so much student loan debt”weight of a generation.

The amount of money we spend on student loan debt per month could help us in a lot of ways (FYI: it is around $337/month). First up: it could help with the grocery bills, thus giving us enough money to not go down the food stamp route. Second: it could help with the startup of Fidelia Hall. Have you ever tried starting up a business or a non-profit? Maybe I’m really stupid, but it’s really difficult and confusing…and it costs a lot. Just this week, our Fictitious Name Registration cost us $70 to file an application, $41 to advertise the application in our local newspaper, and $75 to advertise the application in a legal journey. That’s $186, and we’d still have $151 to spend this month on something else (groceries! Fidelia Hall repairs and infrastructure!) What am I trying to get towards? The debt we’re saddling people with for school, health care, and more are crippling us. They’re crippling us mentally. They make us not want to get out of bed. They make us want to sit around and do nothing when what we really want to do is something, because I believe that all human beings (no matter which political side they are on) just want to get things done for their communities. They’re also crippling our ability to move forward and do better things for our communities. You can’t start up a business/non-profit when you don’t have time or money.**

I better wrap this up. We just hit 1,000 words.

I’m not asking for a raise. I’m not asking for donations. I’m not even asking for an “oh man I feel you.” I just wanted to get this out there so that if you’re in a situation similar to this that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We’re here. We’re successful. We’re pretty happy. We’re in debt and we’re also on food stamps.

*On a side note, I remember credit card companies and banks lining up at the dining halls doing everything they can (“here! have a free beach ball for taking our credit card!”) to get students signed up for their first horrible credit card. They succeeded with me and so many other of my friends.

**Go ahead and leave a comment telling me to suck it up and “pull myself up by the bootstraps just like an American would. I’ve been trying to do this for years. This is just what my Dad said and continues to say. But there’s more to it than “sucking it up” or “taking it like a man” or “pulling up your bootstraps”. There has to be some give and take.