“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
Jorge Luis Borges
|Millie, a resident of the Houghton County Medical Care facility, has a passion for books. When she contacted Little Brothers, she didn’t just want a visit, she wanted help building a library. Our intern Lucia said she would see what she could do and showed up with three teens from Houghton High School’s Interact Club. When they arrived in Millie’s postage stamp of a room, an awkward silence descended. A library? The girls looked around. No books, or barely any, and in her tiny nursing home room there was hardly space for the bed and a dresser. A shelf, possibly. A library? Never.But Millie waxed on eloquently about books, hatching her plot to deal with boxes and boxes of books just waiting to be read, if only they were organized in a way that people could find them. She urged them to come back the following week and to bring “more young people with muscles” to haul the heavy boxes.The high schoolers politely agreed to come back, but worried that she seemed a little disconnected with her current circumstances. Dementia plagues so many residents in the nursing home: some suffer from advanced Alzheimer’s, others have intermittent memory loss and confusion, followed by periods of lucidity. The girls assumed this was not a period of lucidity, but nevertheless, made a date for the following week.
When they arrived at the nursing home a week later, Millie announced to other residents, “These are my new friends from Houghton High School.” She had cookies and treats out ready and waiting for them. They enjoyed the cookies and treats and Millie’s good company and secretly accepted that her yearning for a library was a fleeting memory at their previous visit. Being respectful of Millie and not wanting to bring up the subject if it was not what she wanted today, they prepared to leave… until Millie beckoned them over. “Time to go downstairs.”There in the basement was a craft room with open shelves and, yes, boxes and boxes of books. And not just books. Millie had all the names listed and labels ready to be filled out.The young women looked around in amazement. Boxes of books, empty shelves ready to fill, and Millie’s excitement for the library that was to be created! Their job was laid out for them and they were happy to help, placing all the books on the shelves, in order, with labels – with Millie’s direction!There’s something joyous about helping someone realize his or her passion. It’s contagious.
And it’s our mission-not just fulfilling the basic needs for food and shelter, but for providing opportunities for those pleasures that make life worth living despite all the difficulties and impediments that can come with age.
Flowers before bread, and plenty of books to go ’round.
As the famous abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher once said, “A library is not a luxury, but one of the necessities of life.”
We couldn’t agree more.