Last week, my Little Library arrived from Amazon in a a GREAT BIG box and on Wednesday, my handyman, Luis, assembled it and put it in the ground for me outside our white, picket fence. Between the Sally Holmes roses that are blooming in abundance, and this newest addition to my home, it's a pretty sweet scene (if I do say so myself).
I can't adequately explain how happy this simple act of community makes me feel, but my spirit soars each time someone walks by and admires the garden or stops at the library to see what's available inside. (The thought that there are places in the world where girls aren't allowed to read makes my blood boil and my heart ache.) Invariably, some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around the books I cherished at the time: Little House on the Prairie, Ramona the Pest, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and my favorite, The Secret Garden.
A gift to myself (for our 28th anniversary), I've been coveting these community libraries since first spotting them, but my previous, secluded setting in Piedmont, at the bottom of a cul-de-sac, was too removed from pedestrian traffic. That's not true of my current location. In fact, my new home, with its generous wrap-around porch, navy-blue shutters, bright red door and clematis-clad garden arches are the main attraction on the way to Crocker Elementary School, so I get to say "hello" to all of the families as they walk by - kids and dogs in tow - and they, in turn, say "hey" back. (Good morning!)
It's spring which means that not only the flowers, but the fundraisers are in full bloom. (Community, comes in all shapes and sizes.) This weekend, I'll be joining friends at the Oakland Museum for Ziggurat; the museum's annual fundraiser. In a few weeks, I'll be back for Meals on Wheels, and last Friday, Cliff and I wandered down for Off the Grid; a weekly gathering that's ALL about community - and food!
Clearly, the Oakland Museum has become the gathering spot for everything that's generous and joyous and right about our fair city. Oakland is fast becoming the hip place to be, and for good reason: it welcomes diversity, invites creative thinking, and celebrates our differences . . . which makes us all better, kinder, and more open (or should, shouldn't it?).
But it's not just big gestures that make a difference, it's the Scouts going door-to-door collecting cans of food, neighbors gathering to build a new playground, monthly volunteer gardeners at the AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park or an impassioned activist sending out emails to remind us to vote in the upcoming elections and why, these decisions are so critically important. It's helping a friend in need, picking up strangers in the carpool lane, or standing outside Peet's Coffee to collect signatures for a good cause. It's a million random acts of kindness and they all matter . . . every one of them.
In my own small act of community, I'll be opening my doors - or rather, my garden - at 851 Calmar Avenue, for a neighborhood Open House on June 9, from 4-7pm and you're all invited. Having just won the SFBA NARI award for "Best Bay Area Garden Installation," it's time to show it off. There will be music, light noshing, craft beers and lots of merriment, so please drop by and bring a canned food item (or two). It's my way of saying thank you, not only to my neighbors, clients and friends, but a way to support one of my favorite local organizations - The Alameda Food Bank, because if we're not here to help one another, what, exactly, is the point?
And feel free to pick-up, or contribute a book to the little library; that's what it's here for! You'll make my day . . . and give my spirit wings!
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 12 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.