If Arizona had a backwoods, that’s where I would have been born in 1947. I was born into a family that was short on money but long on seeking knowledge. We had books and it was expected they would be read. By the time I entered kindergarten, I was an accomplished reader. Thank you, Mom. Libraries were a place to get books and, for me, that justified their existence. I don’t remember there ever being “children’s programs.” It seemed to me that children were barely tolerated- seen and not heard. Didn’t care. Books.
I got older and did the things most people did: got married, had babies, worked, and paid taxes.
Then one spring and summer my life changed. I lost my wife, retired and dealt, as best I could, with all of that. Along the line, I realized that I had more time on my hands than I had things to do. I tried some volunteer work at an organization that delivered food, clothes and perhaps some hope to less fortunate members of our community. It was, and remains, an excellent organization, but I didn’t feel a connection between it and me. I drifted away.
At the same time, I discovered that I was about to lose communication with an old, dear friend whom I had known and loved (off and on) for over fifty years. Conventional methods of communication were out of the question and I had no idea what the solution might be. She did. Her solution to the problem was email. What a perfect solution! Why hadn’t I thought of that? Mostly because I had only a vague idea of what an email was, and I had no computer. What I did have was a giant attitude about the cyber world in general, and it’s relationship to me in particular. As you might well guess, I had no warm and fuzzy feelings about computers. My ego and I stood on the brink; I could keep the attitude, or keep the friend. No brainer…eventually.
As it turned out, my little library in Camp Verde, Arizona was beginning a computer class geared for geezers who had no computer skills, no cyber concepts, and brought a bad attitude about computers to class. I learned how to email and, as far as I was concerned, I was done. I missed the lesson on copy and paste because I was busy emailing. Having no computer, I was forced to drive to the library most days to do my emailing. Over a period of time I came to the attention of Alice, the Alpha Female, of the library. She felt the library would be the perfect place for me to volunteer. She had a point. I was already there a lot, I enjoyed the people I came in contact with, and I sort of owed her for answering all of the questions I should have asked in class. And it came to pass that I volunteered.
Over the course of the next couple of years, I learned much more about computers in general, our library computer system in particular, and finally came to the point where I was actually able to help others with some computer issues. Imagine that! I also spent much enjoyable time with patrons, swapping books and recipes, admiring their art work and commiserating with each other over those ungrateful brats that sprang full blown from someone else’s forehead but that we were expected to raise.
And then, miracle of miracles, a paid, part-time position became available. Larger miracle still, I was able to trick some people into the idea that an over-fed, long-haired leaping gnome like me was the perfect fit for this position. This position involves working with teens. Don’t worry about your first gut reaction,most people think the same thing. The problem is, as much as we would like to confine them to some remote island far, far away until they “grow up,” they are tomorrow’s butchers, bakers, candlestick makers and bosses. The future belongs to them and no matter how much we fret about it, it is less and less our problem. So now that’s my mission: try and turn apprentice human beings into a more journeyman state. I am aware that some of the rest of the village is involved in this project as well, and it is the duty of all of us to do the best job we can.
Are they sometimes aggravating? Yes. Are they clueless, filterless, and seemingly brainless from time to time? Need you ask? Are they exciting, occasionally wise beyond their years, and a pure joy to be around? Often enough. Are they worth the pain? No pain, no gain. I often wish I had done a better job with my own kids. Second chance? Hell yes.
Oh, and the lady and the emails? 1200 notes later…happy dance.