“Son, think about what you are doing, or you will lose a finger,” were my words to Kevin Jr., who was holding a hand saw. My 11-year-old son and I were cutting down trees in our backyard and my encouragement was to think carefully about the task at hand.
As a long-distance runner in college, there were a couple of times I ran to a different town, which was about ten miles away. The excitement was there to run to the next town; however, fatigue set in so I needed a ride back from a friend.
It’s back-to-school time, one of my favorite seasons of the year. I enjoy this special time of the year when we celebrate learning and the potential for growth in knowledge. As a Christian instruction librarian, however, the season comes with its pitfalls. Self-assured and self-reliant, I flit between classrooms flaunting the ease of using online resources, seamlessly showcasing research skills to students and faculty. Inevitably, thank you notes full of profuse praise follow my visit, which I store in an “atta girl” folder in my email. I don’t claim to have all the answers, but, in a shallow attempt to earn their trust, I sure act like I do when I want to impress faculty and students with my capabilities.
In this life, it is a given that we shall encounter problems, calamities, troubles, and pandemics. We have been told that, “… In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV). I get comfort from this word every time I look at the news, every time I learn of the passing on of a loved one, and every time I am on the verge of giving up due to the pressures of workplace issues and family predicaments. Losing several relatives within a space of a year led me to reflect a bit, and reading this verse gave me courage to spare a minute or two to help students in similar positions of pressure and loss.
The pandemic has been extraordinary to us in many aspects. In my tiny little world, it has been by far the busiest professionally, given all the work pivoting to online information literacy teaching and reference support. Living by myself, I sometimes struggle with the feeling of isolation, while having to deal with a new chronic pain condition. Life has not been very easy. I remember praying to the Lord for the strength and wisdom I needed to go through each day.
This last year has brought many weeks and months of uncertainty for everyone. The pandemic changed how everything was to operate within our libraries, workplaces, and even homes. My sense of communication changed dramatically, without the cues from body language seen when communicating face to face. And, of course, let’s not forget heated elections and world news.
In the beginning God blesses His creation. The blessing provides important guidance of how to work. The part of the blessing that stands out to me is the call to subdue the earth. As I reflect on this, my understanding of managing the earth includes the work of libraries and information centers.
A student goes to the library to say goodbye; they are graduating – they just wanted to say thank you for helping them pass their courses. This scene is repeated annually in libraries of all types, all over. They go on to success; look at their degree on the wall or promotion and flash back to the time in school when the librarian helped with their failing course so they could pass and graduate. They put a mental bookmark in the important chapter in their life of, pass or fail, or make it or break it, give up or go on, and that bookmarker is you, the librarian who helped them at that crossroads of their life to success. They are now at a point in their success because of you, the librarian hidden behind the circulation or reference desk who smiled and said, “How can I help you today?”
Libraries are usually such peaceful places; it is hard to imagine that a “war” may be going on inside them. Yet internal battles are being fought all the time in the hearts of students, staff, and faculty. Paul encourages us in Ephesians to put on the whole armor of God so we can stand when trouble comes. It does not say to put on this piece or that piece, or whichever pieces we feel like, but rather the whole armor. If we wear the helmet of salvation but forget the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God), we won’t be able to stand. If we put on the belt of truth but forget about the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness, we won’t be able to stand. If we put on the shoes of the gospel of peace but forget about the shield of faith, we won’t be able to stand. We have to take up the whole armor and be ready for action!