Home > About > Bill Peak's Library Column > The Talbot County Free Library Honors Parents
After Tristram died, Melissa and I swore we would never get another dog. It was just too painful to lose so dear an animal after knowing and loving him for so long. But a while back, after twenty-some-odd dogless years, we broke down and adopted a 2-year-old Black Mouth Cur from a rescue place outside Philadelphia. Cherokee has a reddish coat, floppy ears, black muzzle, and kohl-rimmed eyes that would melt the stoniest heart. I spoil her with bones from the Amish Market, the best spot by the fire, and long walks through the countryside around our house. Melissa's health has been poor for some time now, and it does us both a world of good to have a creature around whose spirit is so consistently upbeat and joyful. When I take Cherokee for a walk, she runs and jumps for no other reason than that she can, a young animal kicking up its heels, in love with being alive.
Last week, on my way into town, I got stuck behind an eighteen-wheeler hauling an immense load of chickens to market. It was a gray and rainy day, and as I sat there at the light on 50, I found myself feeling sorry for all those poor animals stuffed in cages, unable to escape each other or the cold rain beating down on them. And then I did a mental double-take. We live in chicken country. Who knows how many times I've been stuck behind a truck hauling chickens to market? And while I've often thought the birds' condition sad, I've just as often been more concerned with escaping the smell than worrying about their wellbeing. So what, I wondered, brought on this unusual burst of sympathy?
And with a happy look on its face, the answer pranced up, licked my cheek, and wagged its tail. Cherokee, of course. Having placed myself for some time now in thrall to the moods and needs of another species, I found it easy to slip into the consciousness of even so different an animal as those poor, miserable fowl destined for someone's dinner plate.
Mr. Perdue can relax, I'm not going to become a vegetarian anytime soon. But it did make me think. If a lone mutt can affect one's perspective that much, what other imponderables are out there doing likewise?
And then, of course, I thought about the library. Not for want of trying, Melissa and I never got to have any kids. Which means that, when I went to work at the library, for the first time in my adult life I got to experience and work with children close-up, discover all their many wonderful manifestations. It was as if the library had gathered all our community's children to its substantial lap and given me permission to care for them. I'm not sure I understand the process involved, but I am sure there was something about being around all those little ones—so utterly dependent upon the goodwill of the adult world—that was good for me, made me a better human being. Certainly nowadays, when I see one of those televised reports of lifeless little bodies being pulled from the wreckage of yet another pointlessly bombed-out building, my heart aches as it never did before.
Which, in turn, makes me think about all the mothers and fathers it has been my privilege to watch come into the Talbot County Free Library, children in tow. If getting to work with children, care for children, has made me more sympathetic to all children (and, by extension, all people), how much more profound must the effect be on Mom and Dad?
If I'm right about this—and I think I must be, for I see such inter-family sympathies occurring in our library every day—then those who would bring a child into the world must, in the bargain, accept a new and higher level of sympathy for all humans and all life. Parents, people who have willingly taken on the burden and travail of raising little ones, may well be the last great hope for our world.
Yet again the people we serve at the Talbot County Free Library have taught me a valuable lesson. As we approach Mother's Day, with Father's Day following not far behind, I thank them, I thank all those who so selflessly pass on life from one generation to the next.
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