Aug 5

Porch Lights

Summer time.

For some reason when I picture summer evenings, I often think of porch lights—that little glow in the evening dusk and on into the thick night. Porch lights are a little smile on a house, a twinkle that blinks a warm welcome to neighbors or passersby.

My parents have talked about these.

How porch lights turned on every evening and the adults pulled out deck chairs or settled onto swings to watch the kids gather around in the summer evenings, scheming. Neighbors took walks and stopped by a porch-lit home to chat, share a cup of coffee, a laugh, some talk about the football game, gossip about this and that. It was a coming-together.

But those sorts of porch lights—collecting stray bugs and bits of moonlight—are more or less a thing of the past.

We live farther from each other, retreat into our homes for our evening routines of television shows, movies, coffee, or checking the latest on Facebook, Youtube, Itunes, Twitter or our favorite blogs.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not lamenting these times—they are my times, and each time has it’s own beauty and it’s own ugly—like in every bit of change.

But where are the porch lights now? Is there any left shining out in the darkness?

Because we humans need light—we crave it.

In winter, light offers warmth. In the spring the promise of growing. In the summer, light means long days and late nights. In fall, light is the orange glow of a pumpkin or candles on a Thanksgiving table.

“Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.” The Tale of Despereaux by Kate Dicamillo

I couldn’t’ve said it better.

Books—stories—are lights.

They do not ignore the darkness, but scatter it with light.

They illuminate life, ignite dreams, expand our creativity, and tickle our imaginations. They connect us together in ways that nothing else can—in ways that nothing ever can.

They criss-cross time and space and people and cultures and ages like nothing else and allow us to share and experience and touch something magical with another human being—with millions of other human beings.

They tell us all that life was, and is, and can be, and is meant to be.

And libraries–beautiful, lovely, sweet-smelling (you know the smell I’m talking about), magical libraries—have always been places filled with that light of ideas, people, culture, knowledge, and creativity. A place that brings us humans—in all our Facebooking and blogging and watching, and texting—together. Libraries are like lighthouses—shining out across a stormy, unpredictable sea.

Sunday, the main character in my book, A Summer of Sundays, knows the power of libraries to bring communities together. Through remodeling the local library, she sees friendships healed, friendships made, ideas, secrets and lives exchanged, and she discovers herself and where she fits in her world.

So where are those glowing porch lights now?

They’re there.

They’re called The Little Free Library.

Have you heard of them?

They are beginning to pop up everywhere—in the middle of neighborhoods, by the entrance to the dog parks, on the corner of an intersection, by the swing set at the playground.

The Little Free Libraries are a movement that has sprung up from those book lovers who know the power of books and whose desire is to connect people with literature, with information, with stories, and with humanity itself.

And these little libraries are giving people what libraries have always given and offered and shared—a place to bring ideas together, strengthen communities, and enrich lives.

They are small little boxes—almost like large birdhouses—with books inside. You take a book in exchange for a book that you slip inside for someone else. Sharing with each other.

Some neighborhoods decide on a theme for their library: mysteries, children’s books, books by a specific author, sci-fi books, books on a specific culture, books that all have a title that starts with a letter of the alphabet.

These Little Free Libraries are the new porch lights.

People are beginning to emerge from their houses, from behind their screens, and gathering around these libraries, chatting with each other about books. And chatting about books (as it always has) brings up ideas and discussions, laughter and sharing, friendships and creativity—bringing people together.

It’s really extraordinary, isn’t it? This power of light—the power of books—the power of libraries—in not only the great wide world, but in our own small world of a few neighborhood blocks.

Visit www.littlefreelibrary.org and find out how you can turn on your own glowing porch light in your neighborhood. Then watch what happens.

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