Occasionally, one has a day in which nothing seems to go right. The pants don’t fit. The cat won’t come in. The cake doesn’t rise. (This was one of those particular days, but you must insert “skinny jeans” instead of pants.) It was a curmudgeonly kind of day that starts out rocky and ends up with a Mr. T knock-out. I was like Pig Pen in the old Snoopy comic strips with the never-ending cloud of dust surrounding him. Except for me it wasn’t dust. It was just blah-ness. Usually, these days just come to their close as they always do, with a whimper and a tip of the hat to whatever Fates were conspiring against you.
A friend of mine once told me that she ends every day with the question, “Did I win or lose today?” And that if that day is a loss, it’s alright because the game is on again in the morning. In my opinion, this day was a loss…that is until 12:55pm in the parking lot of the Walnut Creek Library.
Traffic was snarled all throughout downtown today due to a terrible incident on the freeway. Cars were sitting idle all through town, drivers getting more and more irate, honking, yelling. It was an awful time to be in a car, yet I had to get to the downtown library because, just this once, I wasn’t going to incur late fines on the 25 “My Weird School” books my son had checked out. So I bided my time in traffic, listening to Johnny Hates Jazz without even one of those lilting “You said you’d DIE FOR MEEEE” working its magic on my psyche. Twenty minutes later I pulled into the parking lot, steered my car into the passenger loading and unloading section and bent over to gather the books from the passenger seat.
In that moment, I overheard two people talking. I had seen them as I drove in, standing in the bed of an old orange pick-up with box after box filled with old books. They were obviously donating books to the library and had quite a lot of them to sort through.
“What about this one?” the man said, just as I got out of my car.
“I don’t know,” said his female companion. “Not sure anyone appreciates Grandma Moses anymore.”
Wait a minute. Grandma Moses? Now for those of you who don’t know, I teach art appreciation at the local elementary school and am just weeks away from dazzling my students with the wonder that is Grandma Moses.
I walked over to the pair, towering over me from the bed of the truck and said “I sure would appreciate Grandma Moses. I’ll be teaching her in a few weeks!”
And with that, the pair hopped down from the truck, with huge smiles on their faces and handed me the book.
“You must take this then,” the man said. “Our friend died recently and he had all these old books and when you’re in this situation, you just kinda hope that someone comes along who’ll use ’em and love ’em like he did.”
The woman, who looked so much like the lady in the Grant Wood painting I could barely keep my eyes off of her, smiled at me with a smile so gracious and warm I couldn’t help but shake her hand.
“Thank you so much,” I said, cradling this new treasure in my arm. “You’ll never know how much I appreciate this.”
“No bother at all,” said the man, and they both turned and went back to their sorting.
I walked over to the automatic book return, slid my books through the chute and, as I was coming back to my car, the lady approached me once again.
“Take these too,” she said, handing me a pile of books a foot high. “I’m so pleased we found you.”
And in my arms, she placed a collection of books about artists, artists lifestyles, artwork reproductions – a veritable treasure trove of art literature. I was overwhelmed with gratefulness and surprise and, through the haze of my Pig Pen morning, I got teary.
“Oh, honey,” she said, giving me a hug. “You’re very welcome.”
I thanked her profusely – knowing that I could never truly express my true gratitude at such a lovely gesture. I told her how much my students will love to look at these books and how happy she’d made me.
Later, as I sat in my car, surrounded by honking car horns, I remembered how just one surprise blessing in the form of a stack of books could change my entire outlook. How the kindness of a stranger, tucked away among boxes of books in the bed of a truck, could make me cry. And I am so thankful for those two literary angels who gave me the reminder that while a day may start out as a loss, sometimes magic happens and you win.