At a recent library presentation, a woman stole our book. Not the copyright, not the story, but a single copy of our children's book. Another person might view this as a compliment. The book has enough value for someone to steal it, but I disagree. I don't believe it's a compliment, nor do I view this action as a crime, but instead, I think it's a testament to this woman's character. Sadly, she missed the message of our presentation.
Library presentations serve as our personal gift to the community. We devote our time to promote literacy and share our anti-bullying strategies to benefit the children. My husband and I speak about friendship and trust. We read, sing, play guitar and talk to children about confidence and self-esteem. When we present at smaller venues, such as a library, everyone receives a goody bag, bookmark and free cassette. Even if they don't purchase a book, we make sure no child will go home empty-handed.
A woman I'll call Sue, approached me after our presentation. With her son by her side, Sue explained, "I don't have any cash on me, but my son just loved your book. Bullying is such an important topic." Her son confirmed his mother's statement with a smile and nod of his head; however, it was the look in his eyes that melted my heart.
Sue promised to send a check immediately. She told me she is a teacher, and she wanted to share the book with her class. "You did a wonderful job with the story. The fantasy held his interested, but he also got the message," she said as she wrote down her contact information. "Oh, by the way, can you sign this for me?"
So, in exchange for an autographed copy of our book, a cassette, bookmark and a goody bag, I received Sue's promise and her contact information, scribbled on the back of our business card.
When the check did not arrive, I gave Sue the benefit of the doubt. I waited an extra week, and then attempted to contact her. When she did not respond, I let the matter go. Maybe Sue stole our book because she couldn't afford to buy it. Maybe her motherly instinct to give her son something outweighed her common sense.
But what saddens me is that Sue just didn’t get it. If she did, she would have realized that all she had to do was ask. We would have gladly given her a free copy of our book if it meant that much to her son. In fact, if Sue told us she and her son were hungry we would have feed them. If she told us she didn't have enough gas in her car to get home, we would have filled her tank. But instead, she lied.
Sue might have stolen our book, but she didn't steal our faith or commitment. You see, Sue might not get it, but there is a chance her son does. Maybe, that little boy doesn't have many books. Maybe, when that little boy reads our book, he will be entertained. Perhaps he will remember our message, or share the story with another child. Maybe, just maybe, our book will inspire him to read more, or more importantly, help him to hold his head high if he comes face to face with a bully.
I can only hope for that little boy's sake, that his mother's intention was pure, that this was an isolated incident. If Sue conducts her life with a chip on her shoulder, lying, cheating and feeling entitled, what chance does her child have?
If she could not afford to purchase a book for her child, Sue had other options. Of course, she could have told the truth, borrowed the book from the library, or reached out to a local chapter of First Book.
First Book is a national non-profit organization. It's sole purpose is to promote literacy and to give children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books. According to the statistics on their website, in the last three years alone, First Book has provided more than 20 million new books to children in need throughout hundreds of communities nationwide.
Patricia Gatto and John De Angelis are the authors of MILTON'S DILEMMA, the tale of a lonely boy’s magical journey to friendship and self-acceptance. As advocates for literacy and children's rights, the authors speak at schools and community events to foster awareness and provide children with a safe and healthy learning environment. For more information, please visit Joyful Productions at http://www.joyfulproductions.com