The coffee shop near my house is closed because of the pandemic. I spent much of the last ten years there writing, meeting neighbors, catching up on gossip and oh…having coffee, so out of habit I still take the six block walk.
Along the way I pass several little free libraries, those boxes in front of houses that people put books for anyone to take or you can leave one you’re done reading.
One of the neighbors definitely leans politically to the left and another neighbor down the block leans hard to the right. For a while on the way to the coffee shop as a civic duty I’d take a book from one library and run it down the street to the other library and on the way home bring another one back. Until one day I discovered I was bringing the same book on Richard Nixon back and forth.
Over the years I’ve also learned to read my neighbors through their books. I have kept up with one family’s entire life, their home improvements, eating habits, child issues, medical conditions. One day as that neighbor was getting out of his car I blurted out,
“Hang in there man you two can work through it.”
Another time I yelled, “Try a little vinegar on a q-tip!”
Not long after that the family moved away but the library is still there. So for a while I was on my way to learning a whole new family and then the virus struck.
Now instead of books there are food items in the libraries. But not all is lost. Like the books I’m acquiring whole new insights about my neighbors. And even though the coffee shop is still closed, as part of my civic duty I’m bringing brown rice to one house and a can of SPAM back to the other.