The kids come into the room at the elementary school where we have spread the books out across the many tables. There is incredible excitement as they scan the vast array, picking up books, returning some, choosing others. They are all grinning wildly with excitement, talking loudly to one another about their possible selections. I revel in this scene.
After a while, I spot a young boy sitting off by himself, clutching his book. He is holding it and rocking gently. I approach him and ask if he’s okay. He turns to me with his eyes wide and says, “I am just SO HAPPY! I love books more than anything in the world, and I’ve never had one to keep all for myself!” My heart melts. I try to keep my composure. I ask him if he has any brothers or sisters. He replies that he has one of each. I offer for him to go choose a book for each of them. He hesitates, but then heads back to the tables.
The boy deliberates forever, but I love watching the process. He finally makes his special selections for his siblings. Then he comes back to me, consternation on his face. “May I ask you a question?” he says slowly. “If my brother and sister haven’t made it to North Carolina yet, may I still keep these books for them? I promise I will take good care of them until they get here, and they both love books as much as I do. It will be the best present they could ever get.”
I keep an image of this boy with me always. Who could possibly say no to a child who is asking for books? Who?