How Books Touch Lives in Ways We'll Never Knowby Red-woman
June 30, 2004
Nineteen years ago, I graduated from high school, eager to ditch my parents and commence with some "real" learning. Like many graduates, I received numerous gifts from friends and family. Only one of those gifts ended up being a real stand-out. Since this
is a BookCrossing article, you might even guess what it was.
Truth be told, I remember very few of the presents that were bestowed upon me. I didn't receive a car, and certainly didn't need one. Somebody gave me a hot-pot. My parents gave me luggage. Our very wealthy neighbors gave me a place setting of Bodum plastic dishes. (I'm embarrassed at how disappointed I was by this relatively inexpensive, though highly practical gift.) The real sleeper in the bunch, and the most impactful gift came from a family "uncle" - the closest thing my only-child dad had to a brother.
Thomas Drexler Hill, now deceased, gave me a gift I never expected, but one that I continue to treasure. He very generously offered to buy my textbooks for my first year of college. "Just send me the receipt!" he said, perhaps not quite realizing the financial commitment he'd made. I did send the receipts from the first semester, and the second semester, and all the way through to my eighth and final set of purchases.
I would send him thank you notes with the receipts, and Tom would write back, check enclosed. "Cracking those books, are you?" he'd write, amidst the updates of his bachelor life and new-found retirement. I was cracking the books – not as hard as I should have, but enough to squeak out an English degree with a minor in Afro-American Studies and have him see me flip the second tassel of my life.
Now here's the best part, and the moral of my story. I admit that I sold a few of those books, including my calculus text, which we were both happy to have me shed! But as an Inveterate Saver of Things, I kept most of those textbooks that the kindly old Tom Hill had bought for me. Only recently deciding to part with these relics of a liberal arts education, I serendipitously discovered Book Crossing and have begun registering and releasing some of some of the classics among those now-dusty books. A few weeks ago, a student and fellow BXer requested a philosophy text, which I happily sent. We ended up trading, and today I received a book from her, along with one of life's little lessons. While it has taken me nineteen years to realize the importance and lasting value of Tom's gift, I now understand that the books we give freely have a life and an impact beyond us – one that we may never even know. Tom's generosity and gift of knowledge has been extended to touch and benefit another person directly – truly a gift that keeps on giving.
Following the lead of my benefactor, I've taken to giving the graduates in my life their textbooks. I can think of no better way to spread knowledge and to carry on a fine book-loving tradition. While it may be too late for this graduation season, perhaps some of you will be inspired by this less-materialistic gift idea. If you choose it, please join me in giving thanks and good wishes to the spirit of my book-daddy uncle, Tom.