Wednesdays at Once and Future Books - A view from Steph

 Pay it Forward

The woman was barely five feet tall, her silver hair tucked under a large crocheted hat. She carried two plastic grocery bags with what appeared to be her possessions. “I’m just browsing,” she announced when I greeted her at the front door. It was a bitter cold day, and several people were scurrying into the store with Christmas lists in their hands or on their phones.  I got busy helping those people and forgot about the woman with the hat and the bags until she approached the counter and asked if we had a copy of The Boxcar Children. I walked her to the shelf where we had several books from the series, but she wanted the original story.  I looked, thumbing through the slender volumes until I found the one copy we had.  I asked her if it was a gift, and she said no, she wanted to read it herself but didn’t have any money that day, so she would just read it in the store. And that’s when I knew what to do.

We are fortunate to live in a varied and generous community of readers.  Sometimes, people don’t want their credit from the books we buy back. Perhaps they are moving out of town, perhaps the books belonged to a relative who passed. Perhaps they left the books on the back step and didn’t tell us who they were. (We really, really discourage that.) So we put that credit into a fund called Pay it Forward.  We use it at our discretion, mostly for teachers in Title 1 schools who are using their personal money to build their classroom libraries, for people who are stocking Little Free Libraries in book deserts, and for members of our community who can’t afford a $2.50 book but need the comfort of the decades-old story of four orphaned children who use their resourcefulness to make a home in an abandoned boxcar.