Sunday Reflections: We Can Be Heroes, Just For One Day
The first time I ever worked in a library was the 8th grade. That was the year it all fell apart. I had just been fitted for my back brace (I was diagnosed with Scoliosis in the 7th grade) and I couldn’t do PE. So they had to stick me somewhere. That somewhere turned out to be the library.
To this day I can close my eyes and remember exactly what my librarian looked like. I can’t recall her name, but then I am always calling my kids by the wrong name so this doesn’t surprise me. Even though I can’t remember her name, I remember what a difference she made in my life that year, the year it all fell apart. The year she was my hero.
The back brace was this fiberglass contraption – a fiberglass corset I called it – designed to hold me upright and in place in an effort to straighten my crooked spine. The first time I had to wear it out in public I vomited, self conscious about the way it made me look. In a time where teens are trying to figure out who they are and just trying to fit in, this bizarre thing was happening to me. The only ever person I had known with Scoliosis was named Deenie, and I met her in the pages of a Judy Blume book.
So every day while my friends went to PE where they put on their horrific gym uniform (seriously, who thought those were a good idea?) and ran around the track while they flirted with boys, I made my way to our middle school library and shelved books. While the difference that was Scoliosis made me feel like I stood out for bad reasons, I felt like I stood out in amazing ways when I entered into the library. Here, I was one of the select few who was allowed to enter into this magical place and be entrusted with each precious book it contained. It was like I had been allowed to enter a sacred place and was knighted as a keeper of all things holy. For this hour each day I was not a freak in a brace, but the wielder of knowledge.
It was here that I sat and watched the shuttle Challenger launch and shortly thereafter explode, and my librarian comforted me. It was here that I sat when not 1 but 2 boys asked me to the school dance; they sent gifts and fought over me – me, the freak in the brace! And it was here that I wept when my heart was broken.
|Check it out, 8th grade Karen. It’s okay – go ahead and laugh. I understand.|
That year, the library was my sanctuary and my librarian my hero. When I left that year it never occurred to me that I would one day be a librarian myself. It wasn’t until college that I got a job working in the library and thought to myself – self, this is what you should be doing. She didn’t know it then, but she was saving me. And not only did she save me, but she helped to write my destiny.
Sometimes we are heroes and we never even know it, but those we save know it and that is enough. If we are living our lives right, just once someone will look back and recall how you were their hero, even if it was just for one day.
This week we’re going to be celebrating heroes and villains here at TLT. And while I love the Avengers movie as much as the next geek, the truth is that it is the every day heroes that make the world a better place.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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