Creating Our World

Yesterday I took a walk on a path near my home.  As I turned a bend in the path, I saw a transparent plastic container atop 2 milk crates.  At first, I thought it might have been left by a homeless person, but as I got closer it looked like the plastic container had something in it and had an open end. Was it a makeshift bird feeder or squirrel feeder?

Then I got there and saw a small label at the base of the container.  I don’t recall the exact wording, but it read something like “Free Library.  Take a book and leave a book”.  Inside were several paperback novels.

The label was handwritten in ink and hard to read.  This was clearly jerry-rigged by someone, but who?

This reminds me of another time when I was at a coffee shop and found a book on a table with a label to take it, read it, and deposit it someplace else.  I did that, next depositing it at a bus stop.

Or Geocaching — remember that? People would leave various objects hidden and leave hints, then people would go looking for them and signing the objects (perhaps leaving a trinket) when found.

Why do I bring these things up?  Because these are really cool examples of people doing things that build a sense of connection without ever meeting.  It’s so easy to take simple actions that have a ripple effect and that make us and others feel connected.  Our objects become the sole means of connection, a connection to a larger, inferred community.

It’s also a reminder that we don’t need official sanction, money or talent to do something that will create anything — even a “shared space” for others.

It’s these little bits that add zest to our world.

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6 thoughts on “Creating Our World

  1. There’s a large National Park called Dartmoor about an hour or so from where I live here in England. In 2014, beyond the nearest village and at a spot where hikers alight and board a bus twice a day, someone placed a wicker chair within the dismal looking concrete shelter. No one knew who had done it. Since then, every now and again the shelter has new additions — now there are coloured cushions along the bench and pictures hanging on the wall. Still no one knows who is doing it, but it’s never been vandalised or abused in any way.

    1. That’s especially cool because it’s now a community, decentralized upgrade of a public space. Also great that it hasn’t been abused; you never know who’ll come by to kick that sandcastle, so to really keep at this takes a certain level of non-attachment. Do your part, let it go, and live with the knowledge that it may be torn to shreds.

  2. In my little town in France, during the summer there appear old cabinets around town with books to leave and take. I always look and am happy like a child if there is something worth reading.

    At the same time they park a couple of old pianos with rain covers at two locations. I will stop and play them too.

    In an age of 24-7 internet connectivity, it feels otherworldly and like the good old days to touch an outdoor piano and read a book from a box in the street.

  3. I love these little surprises too, especially the free libraries. While on an extended trip in California, I was walking my dog around the neighborhood we were staying at and came across one of those in someone’s front yard. It was beautifully done, with a cute little door and decorations inside. It was perfect timing for me, since I needed something to read, and I had a book I’d just finished and didn’t need anymore.

    Another cool idea: One of my friends decided that she didn’t need any gifts for her birthday, and she asked us to do a random act of kindness that week—like buy a stranger coffee—and write down what we’d done on a card for her to read. I was due for a mountain hike, so when I made it up to the top, I left some money in the sign-in box with a note saying, “Congratulations! You made it to the peak. Drinks on me. Cheers.” It was a nice feeling.

    1. I really like the birthday idea. I don’t celebrate my birthday, but some of my friends insist on doing something. I’ve toyed with the idea of all of us volunteering as a group to do something, but logistically I wasn’t sure how it would work out. I like your idea a lot!

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