Happiness Booster

Several months ago, while I was away for the weekend, Stephen surprised me with a Little Free Library mounted in front of our house. I was thrilled. I’m a writer and reader, and it had seemed to me for a while, that a Little Free Library was a perfect solution to my overrun of books.

I hadn’t expected the pride of ownership I felt, particularly the first weeks. Whenever I checked, the exchange of books was robust, with books disappearing and new books replacing them within a few days. It felt deeply satisfying to have provided something my community instantly formed a relationship with. It also felt good to see all the books supplied from my own bookshelves being carried off to live in other people’s homes for a while. I’ve always disliked waste, particularly in food. But now, more than ever, books standing idly in personal libraries struck me as a lost resource. Sure, we should all maintain a library of our favorite, not-ever-to-be-gotten-rid-of-books, but the rest should not be cloistered on our shelves, but out in the world to be enjoyed by others.

All this to say my Little Library has given me a great deal of happiness these past months. Then last week, something small happened that boosted my happiness quotient enormously. The doorbell rang, and when I opened, I was greeted by a young woman I didn’t know. “Hello,” she said, “is that your little library over there?”

“It is,” I replied, expecting her to compliment the book selection.

“I found this check in one of your books and wanted to be sure you got it. Are you Jane Anne?”

“Yes, I am,” I replied, reaching for the blue check in her extended hand. A quick glance told me the check was for $100.00, but was over two years old, long past depositing into my account.

“How lovely of you to return it to me in person,” I said by way of thanks. “Guess I better pay more attention when I stock the shelves.”

That was our full interaction. But as this stranger walked away, I realized I was inflated with pleasure at her kindness. Not only had she not wanted my check to go missing, she had wanted to hand it to me herself. To make its return a personal exchange. Then, right on the heels of this, I realized that instead of feeling angry with myself over the loss of $100.00—which I easily might have been—I felt enriched by the unknown woman’s act of kindness. And I guessed her action had made her happy too.

Stucco Wall, Berkeley

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