Life Lessons from an Old,Used book:

A book lover walking the rather crowded streets of Nairobi would, every once in a while, find it quite difficult to pass by the busy streets without stopping at one of the numerous places where second hand books are sold. One listens to the loud voice of the hawkers calling out and because of the fatigue after a long day at work, gets slightly irritated. Then without stopping, they give a passing glance to the heap on the ground and walk right on, only to stop after a couple of steps and move back to see if ‘that’ book is actually a Karen Kingsbury.
One then end up spending ten minutes perusing the dusty pile and going through the blurb before picking up five titles then walking away, a little excited.
This week I am reading one of those books. I must have purchased it over three years ago on the busy city streets. It is a hard cover edition titled ‘grains of sand’ and on the cover is a picture of a lone hourglass placed on a table.
The book is a collection of reflective essays by a parson, William O. Smith and it was compiled from a weekly column he wrote for his church newspaper .
What makes this used book quite special is that it was given as a gift by the author to a couple who were his friends and it has a message scribbled in his handwriting.
To Morris and Eleanor Nielsen, You are special people and knowing you brings lots of memories , best to you always .Rev, William O Smith.
These phrase, scribbled on the book 26 years ago, tells us a story. The story of a friendship that definitely had quite a history (I gather this because of the memories bit). But there are numerous blanks in these stories which are likely to make any great readers’ mind roam.
What was the history of Smiths’ friendship with the Nielsens? Perhaps they were part of his congregation at the Shadow Rock church in Phoenix where Eleanor bought the book on 22nd of February 1987. In that case, the memories would be those of days spent putting up a new church, building a faithful congregation, celebrating Easter and Christmas, sending off mission teams, revival meetings, mentoring children who then became teens and then adults, weddings and funerals, loving and losing, introducing new programs and watching some of them fail and any other occurrences faced by Parsons and their congregations.
Or perhaps the couple were childhood friends who had visited their preacher friend in his church and hence brought lots of memories of his childhood hometown and the joys of growing up .
Better still, the couple could have been people he met as a youth trying to find his path in life and perhaps they helped him shape his dream, or they had raised families together and seen their kids off to college, leaving empty nests behind.
Whatever the case, the beautiful friendships knitted in those few yet tender words cannot escape unnoticed. A friendship whose real nature I will never know but which opens up endless possibilities of ‘maybes’.
In the introduction, William says that his hope is that some small grain of sand will open the readers’ world a little wider and reinforce the fact that we all are part of the same human family.
Through a number of anecdotes and reflective essays, William O. Smith tries to make sense of the world he lived in then and in an amazing way discusses a wide scope of issued ranging from economic state of the world, issues affecting the church and even politics.
To a greater extent, this author takes me back into time, into the golden eighties where as I like to imagine, life was less complicated; where to quote Tevin Campbell, ‘those simple days when people said what they meant, and they meant what they said.’ William takes me yet into another world, of Seventh Heaven , of the strong headed Lucy, and Happy the puppy and the twins , of the modern day marriages and the changing values of family and society; of letter writings and new beginnings, of shifting morality standards and of vanishing black and white and increasing grey areas .
Yet with the same stroke of the pen, the book points me right into a future I have so often dreamt about. Of the endless failed attempts I have made at writing such heart felt articles that now lie in an unused file dubbed ‘Droplets of love and laughter’ in the local disk D of my computer.
The dried red rose petals I use as bookmarks in the book serve as a humble reminder that beautiful things die too and that even though some things are dead, it doesn’t mean they were not beautiful.
With each new chapter I read I am reminded of the previous chapter I have just closed . That life must move on, that sacrifices must be made, that we must walk away sometimes, that we must loosen our grip on the sands of time so they may trickle through the hourglass; that we must choose to look at a lost treasure as a pretty book mark and not a withered rose, that a grain of heat must fall to the ground, for new growth to happen.
So there, that is why I cannot seem to end my affair with old, used awesome books.


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