Tuesday, March 10, 2015
The day began as usual with needs to be met, catching up here and cleaning up after there. During the past few weeks, we have had a little bit of illness and a little bit of just plain grayness clouding over our home. When I was reminded again that we have overdue library books by a child who is still waiting for a book he put on hold, I checked our account.
Five overdue books. I quickly renewed them.
Four lost books.
$98 in fines, due.
Normally, we would be doing school at home on this morning but I decided we had to find those items. Putting it off any longer would just make that enormous fee enormouser.
I wrote down the titles and sent some of my workers around the house to find them. Mercy was able to locate several and we were down to just one missing book. The hunt dragged, compounded by the fact that the whole house has already been turned upside down in search of a missing Latin text book.
As I joined in the search myself, I began to get testy as small people followed me trying to help and the bigger people avoided me, with hopes that they didn't have to help. We have too much stuff! I thought to myself. The kids can't keep track of it. I can't keep track of it. And now, it is costing $100! I grabbed a garbage sack and filled it with unpopular and falling apart books as I rummaged through the shelves downstairs. It's not like this is the first time this has happened, either! I filled an entire garbage sack.
When the final book had been located, I collected as much change as I could to begin to make a dent in what we owe and required that the kids each contribute as they could.
Finally, the van full of kids in various stages of sibling rivalrous arguments, we pulled out of the driveway to head to library. Someone took someone's seat and someone made fun of someone and someone denied being involved and someone whined and someone cried because of the rain. What do I even say? Should I talk about loving each other because God loved us so very much first? Tears began squeezing out of my eyes. There's just too much sin here, in the car, mine and theirs, and too much sad in the world.
I just drove and didn't say anything. The disputes went unsettled. The rain kept raining.
The librarian started checking our books in and acknowledged that there were some things amiss with our account. Daniel wandered in and out of the library looking for his library card that he lost on the way in. Mercy interjected comments into every part of the conversation I had with the librarian. Michael wandered off. Eden grabbed for my bag of change. James and Reuben stared, watching while the librarian reviewed our fines. Josiah had an idea about where every missing library book actually was, right now.
"Well, fifty-seven dollars is still kind of a lot," she spoke slowly as she scrolled through the long list of late fees and lost item fees. Returning the lost books had reduced the fee incredibly.
"I'd like to start paying for as much of it as we can..." I began to retrieve the ziploc of quarters and nickels from Eden's slippery fingers. "I'm just... kind of asking for any mercy you can give us."
I held my breath a little.
My new hero began deleting fine after fine, ten cents, twenty cents, until the only fee item due was for the Curious George book we threw away in November, an innocent bystander in a stomach bug disaster.
"So, that brings us to a total of $7.85," she smiled. We counted out the change and I stood there admiring the zeros on the computer screen, the receipt that showed that we now owed nothing.
Mercy, for the severalth time, asked if we could check out library books today.
I thought for a minute. I wavered between the bitter no and the possibilities of yes. We need to learn how to keep track of our stuff. We need to be sorry for all these fines this nice lady just erased for us. We need to feel the burden of the burden that we don't have any more. And I knew that was all wrong.
We can just be thankful. And enjoy the library which is now available to us again.
So I said yes.
And the little kids ran through the rows of daytime library users at their computers to the kids' area and Michael read Garfield comics and Josiah and Mercy found Ninjago graphic novels and American Girl mysteries and Daniel loaded up on Star Wars. It was as if the months of tiny late fee build up and the anxious thoughts over lost books and what we would owe when I finally got around to paying them had never happened. Daniel and Michael and I smiled at each other over the fines we would now not have to save for, lose our allowance over or pay for at all. And I was so thankful that I could say, "Yes, go! Enjoy this gift!"
It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”