Book Return

by The Lender

Moving west after attending university, I lived in a smallish town in the middle of Washington State. It was hot and dry in the summer, surrounding agricultural farms were supported by gravity-fed irrigation water from the Cascade Mountains. It was cold with crunchy snow underfoot in winter, with definite spring and fall.

It was the mid 1970s. There was a college they’ve since upgraded to Central Washington University. I ran with a creative crowd, mostly attending the college. We also socialized with a few younger college professors, including from the Ethnic Studies and Sociology Departments.

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.

Book Return Heck, in small towns, you’re tied to almost everybody, almost every institution. That’s the beauty of small town life. It fosters deep relationships because you see people often — and also fosters diversity of relationships. Since people “just like you” are few, most people have diverse friendships.

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 saw each other rarely.

Diane once borrowed a book: “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, the cover was tattered. The book was magical to me, cherished 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 knew I could take it with me, because I knew you’d have forgotten who had it, all these months later. 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, 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, 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”.

Originally published as HeroicStories #832 on July 15, 2011

5 thoughts on “Book Return”

  1. That learned and ingrained trait of Diane’s should be part of all of our lives.
    Since I am in my later 70s, I have been trying to send “thank you”s to some of the people who have touched my and my family’s life.
    Favorite teachers, employers who believed in my children and gave them a chance many years ago, my husband’s employer, for giving him steady employment for 32 years. etc.
    The good I feel doing this, is NOTHING compared to what the recipients feel, they tell me.
    Try it……… will make your day, week,month,year much more fun and interesting and wonderful.
    If you are not sure what to say, just search your heart, and say “THANK YOU.”

  2. I couldn’t figure out what the “15 minutes or 15 centimeters, whichever comes first” guarantee was supposed to mean. Joke, parody, pun…help?

    • Okay, guess I was slow. I suppose it meant the bike was guaranteed for 15 minutes after purchase or 15 centimeters of travel. 🙂

  3. The truly moral people are the ones like Diane that you can trust even in small things. In the grand scheme of things a children’s book might not matter much (unless you are the child of course) but I am sure that Diane is one of those people that everyone knows they can trust


Leave a Comment