by The Lender
In the mid-1970s, I lived in a smallish town in the middle of Washington State that was home to a college they’ve since upgraded to Central Washington University. Though I had graduated from a university elsewhere, I ran with a creative crowd who mostly attended or taught at the college. Some of my friends took modern dance classes and gave performances. One friend owned a bicycle shop downtown. Once I purchased a bicycle there with a guarantee tag stating “15 minutes or 15 centimeters, whichever comes first”. Some of our friends had grown up locally, so we had ties to local farming families.
One gal I met was Diane. She was getting a degree in elementary education. We knew each other a little — our social circles overlapped, but we saw each other rarely.
Diane once borrowed a book from me called The Golden Egg Book, by Margaret Wise Brown and Leonard Weisgard. It was a talisman book from my childhood with gorgeous, elaborate illustrations and a poignant story about a lonely bunny who finds friendship. My parents had read that book so many times to myself and my siblings that the cover was tattered. The book was magical, and I cherished it for its precious memories.
One day there was a knock at my door. Diane said, “I’m moving to California and I’m returning The Golden Egg Book. I really like it, and I know I could take it with me because I’m sure you’ve forgotten I had it. I kept feeling too busy packing to take the time to bring it over. But I didn’t want to do that, because I knew how much it meant to you. So, here it is.”
I still tear up every time I tell this story. I’d spent hours listening to lectures about morality and why it’s imperative to do the right thing. But that one small event changed my life. It demonstrated what living a moral life is and that it involves sacrifice at inconvenient times.
When I’m faced with everyday moral choices, I know what I have to do. I have to make the kind of choice Diane did, so I can live with my own conscience — and so the other person feels the relief I did.
Thanks to Diane, my own children were able to sink into that magical story, gaze at the mesmerizing illustrations, and turn the pages of the very same Golden Egg Book.