In light of our current political climate, and the fact that most people recognise 2016 to be a bit of a rough year to say the least, I applaud people’s efforts to spread some joy. I saw a video where a mother and her young daughter handed out roses to strangers. I saw another where citizens in America were writing post-it notes on the subway to comfort each other (totally my activity if any of my colleagues are reading this!). Then I stumbled across the Book Exchange.
A former film lecturer of mine, treasured theorist and friend, Jose Arroyo, posted a Book Exchange challenge on Facebook at the weekend. I have seen similar things before, but have always been too cynical, too disorganised to take part. But, with things as they are, with my writing culminating in a bit of an existential crisis at the moment, with the passing of one of our neighbours, with Brexit and Trump to deal with, I said sign me up.
I have come to realise of late that life is very short. That the most freeing thing you can do, is let go of the fear that holds you back and relinquish control. Sit back and see what comes of it. What if no one responds to my post? What if I don’t receive anything back? What if the person I send a book to doesn’t like it? All these questions crossed my mind but I immediately kicked them out. And I’m so glad that I did.
These things didn’t matter. And within a day or two, I have received 4 Amazon packages. At first, not knowing exactly what they were I opened the first and realised. These were books from the Book Exchange. A fellow Warwick alumni, Hannah (from Gibbons Girls bakery) took up the challenge and had loads of people respond. Opening the packages and seeing what books are dear to people exciting and insightful.
I wonder how those who sent these books came across these stories? What do they mean to them? What did these books communicate to them? I don’t have much by the way of answers here, as three out of four arrived with no note. Though Hannah’s mother in law did message me to say she hopes I like the book she’s sent, which should arrive next week. However, a book from someone called Vicky (hello to you!) included a note:
“Hi Rachael, I hope you treasure this story as much as I did- it will make you sad (sorry!) but it’s a book I’ll never forget, that led to a trip I’ll always remember. Happy reading! Love Vicky #BookExchange xx”
I hope Vicky doesn’t mind me sharing her note. But I was so moved by it. This complete stranger was opening up about her experiences via the medium of books. Though we haven’t and I suppose never will meet, our paths have crossed in a meaningful way. We have exchanged more than just paper bound together, we have exchanged a life changing story.
And this is the business I’m in. It hasn’t been so clear and sharp to me in some time. But this is why I want to write for a living. This is why I want to publish. I want to have a positive contribution in this world, even if it only relates to one person.
So the lesson I’ve learned from all this? To throw myself back in, urgently and without fear – I’ve wasted enough time already. I’ve also learned the magic and power of saying yes and what wonderful things come of it, and that I need to do it more.
If anyone wants to start a Book Exchange, comment below and I’ll message the details.