At Easter, one of my little buddies was opening the eggs he’d found. He was doing quite well; the plastic eggs opened to reveal some money and lots of candy. He is a generous soul, offering some of his candy to his family around him. He heard me tell his cousin that I liked the orange Starburst the best, and the next time an egg revealed one, he gave it to me. (By the way, orange is also his favorite. As I said, he’s a generous soul.)
A few minutes later, he noticed that I hadn’t eaten it. Not yet the master of an extensive vocabulary, he pointed at it. I said I was going to eat it later. He pondered that for a moment, took the candy, unwrapped it, and popped it in his mouth.
One doesn’t simply give up one’s favorite candy just to see it sitting on a blanket. You want to see it enjoyed.
The lesson was learned. The next time an orange Starburst came my way, I ate it.
I went to my first Bruce Springsteen concert Thursday night. Now according to his website, he was on the 5th concert of this leg of the tour, after having been in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand for most of February. Now, I mention this only because it would have easy to mistake the Nashville concert as the first night of a tour after a long, enforced break with the Boss eager to see his fans again. His enthusiasm never flagged as he sang the songs he’d sung only two nights before and two nights before that. He leaped into the crowd, body surfed, pulled people on stage, and barely stopped moving the three hours he was on stage. The same was true for the entire band. It was not just a concert; it was an event. And as I learned as I listened in on the conversations behind me between two Springsteen veterans (twenty concerts between them), this is just what Bruce does. He brings it every single time.
I left the concert wanting to join the E Street Band. Unfortunately, I can’t sing or play an instrument. So I decided to try to be more like Bruce and approach more tasks with that kind of unbridled enthusiasm.
Now some might say it’s easy for Springsteen to be enthusiastic about his job; after all, he’s a rock star. And I don’t disagree, although I’m sure some elements of his job are as repetitious and boring as anyone else’s: rehearsing songs, answering the same interview questions, singing the same hits over and over. And believe me, I’ve gone to enough concerts to know that not everyone plays with such intensity every night. But Springsteen pours himself into his work, and we can all do that.
So this week, when you’re about to do the same task or answer the same question for the 500th time, remember Bruce belting out, “Hungry Heart” for the millionth time but still with a big smile on his face. I bet you’ll be able to manage a little smile yourself.
Today is the day to celebrate those folks who work in libraries. Give your local library worker a friendly smile or a quick thank you this week.
For me, libraries have been home as long as I can remember. In rural Alabama, I made a weekly visit to the Bookmobile each summer. In elementary school, I set a goal to read every book in our school’s library. I soon learned that I was not going to be able to achieve that goal but decided to keep trying anyway. In junior high, I worked my study hall period in the library and became friends with our librarian. And now, after many years, I have gone full circle and work in a library again.
At our library, on any given day, we do many, many things. And some of those things include ordering, processing, cataloging, shelving, and then checking out books. And I will never downplay the importance of books to libraries, but they are only part of our mission. We also have databases that provide students with articles on subjects for their research papers. We run workshops on topics, such as word processing and presentation software, MLA format, apps and mobile devices, and social media savvy. We answer research questions in person, on the phone, and online. We provide computers and tablets as well as a quiet place to study. For some students, the library as a specific place is an integral part of their education.
And then we do the other things that don’t pop up in our job descriptions:
- We console students who have just failed a test and think they should drop out of school.
- We help students figure out the eccentricities of their course management system.
- We show them how to register for courses.
- Because we tend to be open whenever students are here, we answer lots of basic questions about the college.
- We serve as cultural translators for ESL students who may not understand an assignment or the connotation in a poem or short story.
- We encourage.
- We even provide pens when a student finds himself on campus without one.
We want to be a welcoming place for all, whether you are a prospective student at the front desk wondering where the admissions office is located or a student fifty miles away trying to access a database. And I bet your local library is the same.
So today, thank a library worker.
Yesterday, I went to Cheekwood Botanical Garden to see the tulips. If you know anything about these flowers, you know that you can’t procrastinate when they’re blooming. They will not hang around waiting for you. For a few years, I planted tulip bulbs in the fall. They were beautiful in the spring. But more than once, I left a gorgeous array of color in the morning only to find only scattered petals when I returned home, victims of a windy day.
As I walked around the various beds, I could see, even in the midst of their peak blooming time, some of their number were already wilting and losing their petals. It didn’t make the experience less beautiful, but it was bittersweet to realize that even if I returned the next week, the colors would already be fading.
Still, I’m grateful I get to enjoy such beauty. And tulips are a good reminder that all things, when it comes right down to it, are impermanent, and I should never overlook a chance to appreciate them.
One month from today will be the last day of the semester. So from here on out, students will be feeling the pressure to try to get everything done. Here are the Jolly Librarian’s suggestions for keeping calm during the coming weeks:
- List your deadlines. I like a big wall calendar because then the deadlines are staring at me all the time, and I’m not likely to forget one. But use whatever is comfortable for you: a datebook, your phone.
- Break those deadlines down into smaller ones. A research paper with a deadline for May 1 may seem far, far away. But in reality, a research paper consists of many discrete parts, so put those on your calendar as well: finding sources, writing a draft, editing the paper, writing the works cited, etc.
- If you are having trouble in your class, procrastinate no longer. See your professor. Go to the Learning Center.
- Do something every day on your courses. Now some would say that this is impossible. If you have a test in calculus in the morning, your time is better spent on calculus and not a review of a history chapter. I don’t disagree, but I think students are much more likely to err on the other extreme: “No tests this week. No studying!” So do something every day on every course.
- But also take time to relax. Go for a run. Read a book for pleasure. Watch “The Big Bang Theory.”
- Talk out your fears. Almost every student feels the stress of this period. You’re not alone. Talk to people in your classes. It helps to know you’re not alone.
- Maintain your sense of humor. Sure, it’s a stressful time, but if you can find humor in the situation, you’ll feel a lot better.
And, remember, one month from today, for better or worse, the semester will be over. And we’ll all get to have a new beginning.
This has not been the best of mornings. I had bad dreams and then overslept. And let’s just say some basic personal grooming had to be omitted to get to the dentist on time. There, I tried on my new mouth guard which resembles something that might have been used in the Middle Ages as an instrument of torture. Of course, the second it was in my mouth, both my dentist and his assistant decided to ask me numerous questions about my weekend. My mood was definitely bad by the time I walked into the library this morning.
Then a student returned some headphones because they weren’t working. Now, there are many reasons a student might not hear sound on a computer, so we routinely check headphones when there are complaints. So I went to my computer and put on Pharrell Williams’s “Happy.” This song has the ability to instantly cheer me up. By the time the song ended, I was back on track and ready to enjoy the day.
Everyone should have such a song. If you don’t, your assignment for this week, if you choose to accept it, is find one.