“It is not down in any map; true places never are.”
— Herman Melville
When we travel, we never really travel alone.
Yesterday, my kids and I volunteered at the Tigard Public Library for a break from our winter break. Our task was to shelve books for the librarians. After a brief training in their very busy circulation department, and an evaluation of our alphabetic and numeric sorting skills, I was paired with Rich and sent up to the non-fiction department to shelve a couple cartloads of books.
Rich told me that he was from New York, out visiting family in Portland on an extended vacation. I asked him what prompted him to volunteer 3,000 miles from home. He had discovered the Hands On Portland site and found it so easy to find ways to volunteer that he’s trying to give back once a week while he’s here.
He also told me that he is one of co-founders of Sambazon drinks, a drink made from the Acai berry, grown organically for the company in the Amazon, and found in your neighborhood markets in the specialty drink markets. He had gotten connected with his co-founder through his travels to Brazil, and his fluency in Portuguese, where the berry is grown and harvested.
Seeing the world by traveling far, like Rich has done, is one way to see a new world. And it is very cool that he’s giving a little of his vacation time to give something back to the community that is temporarily hosting him.
Ironically, yesterday, I saw a new world as well. Not only did I get to learn some new things from a New Yorker, but I got to see our local library in a new way as well.
Every time I found an incorrectly shelved book, I had to fix it. Every time I ran out of space on a shelf, I had to rearrange the titles on multiple shelves to fit. It gave me a new perspective and understanding of one of the librarian’s many roles. In short, I saw my library in a new way and I will never again toss a book on a shelf half-heartedly again.
When we volunteer, we get the chance to see new places in our community – or in Rich’s case – someone else’s community. Places which aren’t on the map. Places which aren’t described in a tourist brochure. Places where we can help each other and gain insight into what makes a community.
And we get the chance to meet other people – fellow travelers, from near and far, who walk with us along this long path called life.
We come from different places with different faces, but, in spirit, we are all travelers.
And we all travel together.
Yesterday’s gift of time … Volunteered with my kids, and a cool fellow from New York. We gave back to our local library, and I now have a new drink to try from somewhere very far away.