On this blistery January Sunday, I walked to the library…3 miles there and 3 miles back.
Because I wanted to.
Because it was fun. I enjoy the exercise.
Let me back up a little bit: The library is a place I like very much. I always have enjoyed reading and going to the library. However, since I have started down this FI path, the library has become even more to me: It is an older sibling who is taking care of a problem in which, I had no resource to fix.
My love of books.
I was spending over $100-$200 on books each year (that is being very generous, it was probably way more). I discussed this in my library project post.
The library allowed me to continue my love of reading and books at zero cost.
However, I have not been loyal to the library lately. I have neglected it and had not been in a while. In fact, this was the first time I had been to the Monroe County Library in Bloomington.
Today I wanted to go back, check out some books, and finish some homework.
As I walked the 3 miles to the library in the wind and snow, I thought “damn, this is awesome.” I love being outside and I enjoy winter very much. I believe there is something beautiful about snow and wind in the city.
I came in, finished some registration tasks for my library card, found a spot by the window and sat down.
I pulled out my notebook , phone, pen, and laptop (I have a very specific routine) and I always have a habit putting my headphones in and not turning any music on instantly.
I am sitting there, enjoying the day, writing my paper, when a gentleman sits down across from me with a Herald Times newspaper. No big deal, there was plenty of desk. I nodded and smiled.
A few minutes longer, I am typing away, trying to knock this paper out, so I can start on my new book.
I then notice two male voices behind talking pretty loudly about bible verses, laced with profanity, which I gave a slight “wtf?” thought to myself. But, once again, no worries.
I then start to notice a large group of individuals congregating around the middle of the open area where I am sitting. Being slightly louder than usual and not really reading, but “hanging out.”
I then began to listen to some of the conversations that were going on around me. (I can’t help it, I was trained that way).
I want to state that I was not eavesdropping, okay maybe a little, but these conversations were loud, albeit interesting.
I then started to notice the outfits and the bags that were with the people were mismatched and dirty and stained.
Then it hit me.
They were homeless.
These weren’t outfits, these were probably the only sets of clothes they owned. Which, I presumed because of the multiple layers that were beneath each set.
They were in the library reading, catching up with each other, and staying warm. Not so different than a friend and I would do.
However, they were here because they needed to be. I was here because I wanted to be.
I will be honest, I felt a little guilty. Here I was, looking forward to walking back down the road in 28 degree, snowy, windy weather because I thought it was fun.
All while sitting here, finishing a Master’s Program that my company was paying for.
The backpack I carry? It’s just my EDC. Sure, I would be upset if I lost it, but it’s not my life. Literally.
I had never imagined that it might not be as fun if I hadn’t woken up in my comfy, warm, bed this morning when I decided to walk to the library.
It might not had been as fun if I did not know that I would have lunch when I got back in a warm apartment or where I knew I would even be sleeping tonight.
I am not worried about my health. I have plenty of places to treat me. I have insurance.
I am not fighting an addiction or the pull of alcohol, stimulants, depressants, and other drugs.
However, I quickly noticed one thing: they didn’t need my sympathy.
Their body language and speech determined that.
I have had enough human interaction in my life to know that stance of being proud.
They were doing what people do: living. Just like you and I are trying to do.
I just sat and listened for about a half hour to everyone talking and joking and giving each other a hard time.
They were not whining because it was cold out. They were happy to be somewhere warm.
They were passing information of where to get dinner that night, as well as which church they had been kicked out of for coming in drunk, and who had gotten arrested and why and where to get new winter clothes.
Hell, they were even discussing reality television.
I heard conversations about the churches that had “pancakes so good, you didn’t need syrup.”
We walk past people each and every day and some have more visibility that they may need our assistance than others. Sometimes we help and sometimes we do not.
I went the library today to read and relax.
However, I ended up learning even more about human resilience and interaction today.
With all of the shit going on in the world, it makes me smile (again).
Oh, and the gentlemen reading the newspaper across from me – I hope he enjoys the cash that “dropped” between the pages when I got up to leave.