The Richest Lady In Town
A couple of weeks ago our family moved into a brand new home we’ve been building over the last year. Inside it is a library with many books dating back to my early childhood.
My library began with Golden Books purchased by my mother at the supermarket each week for twenty-five cents. (I think the price is correct. Often our three or four year old memories aren’t too accurate.) From there, I graduated to various picture books. On my ninth birthday I received a box filled with hard cover Readers Digest classics for children. I was in heaven.
Robinson Crusoe; Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island and Robin Hood fired my imagination. Our family didn’t have much money and gifts were often very practical or cheap, but books were always purchased when possible.
Sometimes my mother would foist books upon me and tell me I should read them. When it came to adolescence I didn’t get a talk, I got a book. The book was actually very good at explaining the physical changes and some of the emotional changes I was going through. I realise now that my mother struggled to communicate much of what she wanted to tell me, so she bought books.
The years passed and my collection grew as I kept favourite books from school, uni or church.
My first Bible sits on my shelf, pages falling out, cover askew and filled with notes and under linings marking the path of a spiritual journey with many ups and downs.
When I had children I had the rule that they could not ask for anything at the shops, especially if they said, ‘I want.’ My reply was, ‘I want, doesn’t get.’
However, I told them they could pick whatever fruit or vegetable they liked-even if it was expensive. If we were in a bookstore I told them they could choose a book if they wanted to. (We spent a lot of time in second hand bookstores!)
I also got library cards for every member of the family and, each week, we would head to the library and bring home bags of books.
Over the years, our financial situation became so I could go into a bookstore and buy any book I wanted. I knew I was the richest lady in town. I was a blessed woman.
I also have the honour of travelling to Cambodia and training teachers there. Books are held in such high regard there that, at first, the children in our program only saw the books in a glass case. The teacher was the only one allowed to handle them and read them to the children.
Part of my training with them is to teach that books need to be used. If they become dog-eared, then all the better. When I travel to Cambodia my suitcase is filled with books. I take a small overnight case for my clothes and personal items. The rest is filled with wonderful books I have purchased, or been given, so that 2000 children in Phnom Penh can be exposed to the wonderful world that books open up for them.
It gives me great delight to see children lying on the floor, poring over books and enjoying the pleasures of being able to read.
As I sit in this room dedicated to my books, the history is palpable around me. I’m reminded of my life journey from a child being read Golden Books on my father’s lap, through childhood adventures in myriad books to being an English teacher, a parent and now a writer with my own library space. I’m convinced God has brought me here.
I am the richest lady in town, not just because I own so many books and have a beautiful room in which to enjoy them, but because I’ve been on a journey with God. He has taught me, guided me and kept me through life. The books are signposts on that journey and markers of growth like rings on trees.
I am the Lord your God,
Who teaches you what is best for you,
Who directs you in the way you should go.