When I was in my second year of university I took a module in photography. Part of the assessment criteria was to produce a workbook showing personal research and development of a final project. After a nasty knock to the system during a presentation in which my work was flogged in disgrace, I was desperate to improve my standings with my lecturer and so I threw myself into thickening my workbook. Everyday I would head to the library’s top floor and riffle through the photography volumes searching for inspiration and advice on how to achieve better pictures. However, the nights were starting to pull in, and I decided that staying late at the library was not a good idea. I had just moved in with my boyfriend of the time, and I started taking a different bus and a different route home, and being a little nervous about ending up at the final stop, alone and without a means of navigation, I was constantly ensuring that the upcoming station wasn’t my drop-off point.
I started to withdraw books from the library as a means of keeping work going at home. Generally I had them for only a couple of evenings so I knew which volumes I had at any given time, and I would mark pages with post its, simply photocopy what I wanted to use, and bring them back in on the next available day. Unfortunately, the tombs were becoming larger, thicker and heavier, and the nights were getting darker quicker, and where I couldn’t fit my borrowings into my rucksack, I simply, and stupidly, placed them on the seat beside me. The inevitable happened on a rainy evening in November when my haste to unclip my umbrella get the better of me and I left a book on the bus.
At home I set down to work and only then noticed I was missing something. For the next few weeks I was panicked by the thought of what would happen if it didn’t turn up. Online the value of the book was around £125, money even then I could only have dreamed of, and which would be added to a large fee from the library. My boyfriend suggested I check in with the library to make sure I had actually taken the book out. I did and I had. I renewed it twice to avoid preliminary charges should by some miracle it turn up in one of the places I had already checked hundreds of times. Luckily the third and final renewal I was allowed without the book at hand came just before Christmas when the allocation time of withdrawals increased substantially to encompass the Christmas holidays.
During the time off I phoned the bus company, and the local police station with a vague hope a book worth £125 had been handed it. I searched the house from top to bottom and asked friends to check theres, but it soon became apparent that was I never to be in contact with this volume again, and I accepted my fate and began to save up some money to replace the title and pay the fees. Assignments took over, and January swiftly made its appearance. On my final hand in day I breathed a sigh and walked into the library to return the books I had not lost. I’ll just drop them off, pay the late fine, I thought, and explain the book has been misplaced.
“Can I return these please?”
The librarian ran the books through the scanner and smiled. I waited for the system to shriek my lateness, but no alarm was sounded.
“All done,” she said.
Perhaps I had misjudged the date?
“Are there any more books on my account?”
“No that’s it.”
A moment passed between us where I tried to disguise my shock, and she tried to gauge my expression. “Alright, thank-you”.
There is no other explanation, no other form of miracle, than that of the human capacity for kindness and compassion. A stranger, or possibly even someone I knew, registered I would be in severe trouble at its misplacement and traveled to the campus library to replace the book. That individual, whose name I may never know, whose story I may never hear, saved me a crippling fine and a large amount of stress by simply doing-the-right-thing. Maybe an attendant from the bus station had the book posted to Marjon, maybe a student of my University found the book and dropped it off on their way to a lecture, maybe a kindly old woman engrossed with a weeks worth of shopping spent an extra hour getting off the bus early and staggering down under her burden to pass the volume back in the name of a forgetful student. Whomever it was, and for whatever reason it was done, I owe a valuable life example to that solitary human-being.
I wish the news could honor those simple moments of heroism. Ignore the gloom of those who harm, and invite others to see the marvelous people who inhabit their worlds, the ones who often go unnoticed. The man who passes you the missing twenty-pence for your bus fare, the lady who stops to help you up after a trip, the stranger who settles beside you on a bench and genuinely wishes to know why you’re crying. Good, ordinary people, who despite the stresses and strains of their own lives, take little moments everyday to help another with no benefit to themselves.
Thank-you mysterious guardian who handed my book back in. Although to you it may have been either nothing-to-get-excited-about, or a small inconvenience, or a large inconvenience, to me it was a saving grace, and a shining example of how awesome people can be sometimes.