In 2007, a handful of people who let me walk a half-step ahead of them came up with a plan:
Open a library in Bella Bella with books of every genre, there for all ages in the community.
Most people in most places take libraries for granted. Most small town have one, or there’s one within driving distance. But for a community of 1,500 people living on a remote island, we story-lovers thought it was past time to make it a reality.
Over the course of 6 years, we transformed a very small space into an overflowing library with nearly 4,000 incredible books. Turned out the library was a story in and of itself. We had a whole shelf of books donated and inscribed to the library by all the shining literary stars of my once-upon-a-time undergrad in English. And every time a parent or grandparents came in to read to a child, every time a community member came in on a crashing wave of excitement to tell me about a new title they wanted, it made my heart feel so strong.
In July 2013, a catastrophic fire destroyed the building that housed the library. In that fire, we also lost important services like our post office and grocery store, along with the office of my non-profit (which serves as the umbrella organization for the library).
Eight months later, we’re opening our doors again. Thanks to the donation of a beautiful facility, we have a new space that’s been transformed by a local carpenter into cedar palace. The kindest strangers in the world sent thousands of books. We’re bouncing right back to where we left off with around 4,000 books in a beautiful new collection.
Today is the day our library is reborn. Today is the day we celebrate with our community and our friends.
Today, I woke up and burst into tears.
Granny always told me not to hold grief in my heart. But so much love and hope went into that first library, and I think a part of my heart never recovered from the day I waded through knee-high black pulp and ashes where our books used to be. I can’t express how deep that pain was, but so many of the people who responded to our call for help knew intuitively. I will treasure for the rest of my life the letters that came with many of the donations, the emails people sent.
Today, I’m letting go of the pain. Maybe you think it’s silly to feel this way. It’s just books, after all. But books are stories, and stories are all I am.
I don’t have any idea – no idea at all – how to express my gratitude to the many, many people who had a hand in raising this space up again and filling it with books and hope. They’ll be thanked more eloquently in other media when I’m working and writing more professionally.
For now, I just want to thank everyone from a deeply personal place for helping to make today a day of healing for me and my bruised little story-heart. The pain is gone, and it’s been nudged out by hope. I can’t even begin to imagine what I’ll do with that new freedom, and I’m grateful for it.