Sometimes, all our objective professionalism aside, we can get a little snobby here at the desk. We feel more than good about our education and our technology, our books and our access. We feel…superior. We feel…elite.
Sometimes we look down our collective noses at our down-and-out patrons in a very paternalistic, condescending way. We are glad that we are the ultra-cool, cutting edge persons that we are, and not - well, you fill in the blank. What they are.
Don't get me wrong - I do feel good about my education and our resources. I feel good about what I do and the place our library fills in the community. And I am very thankful to be employed.
But - there are certain patrons who can rub me the wrong way, who make me feel good in a bad way - good that I am not round (well, rounder than I am) or loud or poor or dirty or ill-mannered. In my more sane moments, I realize that these traits are learned and products of environment. Other days, I just feel superior.
There is one man in particular, who is round and deaf and homeless. And insistent and slow. And annoying. He comes in regularly, needing help on the internet. I help him - he doesn't avoid me, so at least my professionalism has won over my preferences. I see him as a pain in the neck.
I went to church on my lunch hour today, being Good Friday and all. It was not my regular church - this one is stately and formal, and even more so today. It's kind of a shock to the system - church is quiet and still; work and the downtown streets are loud and busy. Church is solemn and serious; work is hyper and informal and light.
Kneeling there, looking at the altar, processing the shift, I was pleased and humbled to see the round, deaf, homeless man - serving as the altar boy. He looked appropriately medieval in his white robe with the rope belt tied under his Friar Tuck belly - all he needed was the bald tonsure. He fit right in to the picture - while I, in my work clothes, was on the outside, foreign to the atmosphere of the sanctuary.
Fitting, that today of all days, I was reminded again - we all have a special place in the world and a role to fill, and we are all outsiders in somebody else's world. I feel good, in a good way this time, that he is part of my world, and that I can be part of his.
Learning and technology aren't everything. Sometimes all you have to do is be willing to serve.