Picture this… (isn’t it simply amazing that I could type “picture this” and, if I provided you with enough detail, you could do exactly that? Oh, for the gift of literacy and imagination!)
Let’s try this again… picture this; I am standing with my younger son Evan by his teenage brother Riley’s bedside. Riley is lying there with his eyes closed, his emaciated body deathly pale. Evan and I are weeping, fearful that this may be the last time we see him alive.
Riley had been critically ill with Lyme disease for years at that point. He had come to California with my wife Christine hoping to get treatment that was unavailable in Canada. It’s Spring, the trees outside his window have blossomed, and a multitude of colorful birds flutter in and out of the branches. Yet the curtains in Riley’s bedroom are shut tight; the sunlight and the movement of the birds are too startling for his high-jacked brain. He had been in a prolonged state of self-isolation, cut off from friends and family, except for Christine tiptoeing into his room to feed him by Dixie Cup or carry him to the washroom.
Have I cheered you up yet?
With the COVID-19 pandemic we are all experiencing isolation. The world has been sent into a tailspin of fear and uncertainty. Public spaces are closing, parks are shutting down, workplaces are emptying out, planes have been grounded, folks are self-isolating or staying two meters apart, the Children’s Reading Place where Christine and I have lived for two wonderful years has cancelled family visits and is cluttered with cleaning supplies instead of the joyful clamor of children on the hunt for books and reading nooks…
So, what is my purpose in writing this Blog? Lacking a magic wand or crystal ball, I wanted to share hope: to open the curtains and let light into the dark corners. For if you look closely you’ll discover bags of carefully sorted books on the porch of the Children’s Reading Place; you’ll see families continuing to arrive and carry these treasures off to populate the Little Free Libraries (LFLs) in their neighbourhoods; you’ll witness folks purchasing groceries for those unable to shop; you’ll notice appropriately-distanced walkers making eye-contact and greeting one another with unprecedented warmth; you’ll be amazed by front-line workers supporting others while putting themselves at risk; you’ll hear the sound of pages turning as people rediscover the beauty of reading; you’ll see board games dusted off and families reconnecting through simple pleasures.
Then if you look a little more, trust and believe, you’ll see my son Riley with his beautiful, warm smile, fully recovered and alive! What can we learn from his perseverance and amazing resiliency? I used to falsely believe that part of his survival was due to his dissociation from pain and suffering… I was well-intentioned, but wrong. Unfortunately, he’d been in pain every day for years, but he discovered a combination of things to help sustain him. This is overly simplistic, but here are few of those things: a belief that things could be worse and that he’d get better, an ability to go deep inside himself and discover peace and light amidst suffering, a commitment to replaying happy memories in his head, an unwavering faith, his sense of a greater community supporting him, and the loving care of his devoted mother and other dedicated caregivers.
As Riley began to improve, he devoured audiobooks and began to reconnect with the world. Eventually he learned to walk again, and I’ll never forget that glorious moment when he put on his hockey skates after years of disuse and glided around the Olympic Oval! As his father I was hopelessly biased, but I wanted to lift Riley onto a podium and place a gold medal around his neck. More important than the skating, he had courageously shown me that hope and optimism could prevail in a prolonged period of darkness. Perhaps this is something we can all draw strength from.
As I write this, our time as Readers in Residence has come to an end. We are deeply thankful to have had the opportunity to live and volunteer at the Children’s Reading Place. It will be sad to move on, but we’ll take with us a million mental snapshots of the children and families who laughed, read, and explored in this magical house. We are also indebted to the Calgary Reads staff and volunteers who supported us and shared in our journey.
Now picture this… the snow has melted, green buds explode from the branches, robins sing while gathering sticks and dry grass for nests, the sun’s warmth melts the frost, and listen, just listen; it’s the patter of tiny boots and the gleeful cry of children racing up the steps again in anticipation of what they’ll discover or rediscover in the magic that is the Children’s Reading Place! Here’s to the hope of rebirth and the continuation of a vision that is so vital to a healthy future…
”…if you create a comfortable, fun space for children to read, they will. And when that happens, their imaginations are ignited, and their confidence grows.”
With fondness and appreciation,
Terry and Christine Lindberg
Legacy Readers in Residence