My New Favorite Thing About Our Neighborhood

Are you ready for this? Look what we have!

A lending library!

My neighbors installed this pretty little library in their front yard, and now everyone in the neighborhood can swing by to exchange books with one another. It makes my heart so happy!

When Evan came home from work the other day and I started gushing about it, he said, “Oh, that makes more sense. As I drove by I thought, ‘That’s the largest mailbox I’ve ever seen.'” Ha!

Until we moved into this house, Evan and I had only ever lived in apartment complexes together, so maybe that explains why we had never built any relationships with our neighbors. Here, we’ve been so blessed with neighbors who have been intentional about getting to know us and sharing life. To be honest, it feels like a complete cultural shift for Evan and I, but it’s one we are so grateful for. I find myself wondering what accounts for the difference. Is it apartment vs. home, suburban vs. urban, or Florida vs. Michigan? I’m not really sure. It’s probably a combination.


Admittedly, it’s hard for me to hand over books I love. I stood at my bookshelf for a long time, considering what books to pass along. I want to contribute something that I loved, that I think other people will love too, but the truth is, it makes me happy to see those meaningful, well-loved books on my bookshelf. (This is something Evan and I debate about all the time–is it worth holding onto books we’ve already read and will likely not read again? I say yes, he usually says no.)

But sometimes, I have to remind myself that the value of the book doesn’t lie in the paperback itself. It’s not so much about the passages I underlined or the surprises in the plot. It’s more about the change that took place in my mind and heart as I read; the new things I now understand about a different culture, place or time;  and the glimpses of myself I uncovered in each of the characters. The Chosen means something to me not because it sits on my bookshelf, but because it helped me learn that the tension between faith, family, and friendship is worth wrestling with. Love that Dog means something to me not because of it’s cute yellow and blue cover, but because I helped me understand more about why I love poetry and why kids need poetry in their own lives. Somebody Told Me means something to me not because of the passages I flagged with sticky notes, but because the stories within it broke my heart and helped me discover the power of storytelling. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is valuable not because of its place on my shelf but because of what it taught me about growing up and courage and family.

And so it goes.

So, when I pass along a cherished book to a friend or our little neighborhood library, I’ll remember that sharing means giving someone else the opportunity to change and grow and learn and simply enjoy as they, too, turn the pages. (Isn’t that why we teach kids to share, after all? Because it’s not about the value of the item, but about the relationship building and heart-change that happens along the way?)

And let’s be honest–I can always run to the bookstore and grab myself another copy if it comes to all that.

This afternoon when Ian and I got home from running errands, we dropped off a young adult book I had read during my teaching internship, and in exchange, we picked up a new Pete the Cat book for Ian. (Admittedly, Ian didn’t enjoy the process because he thought were going to play at our neighbor’s house, but he’ll figure it out eventually.) Even our brief time here in Grand Rapids, I’m learning that sharing with my neighbors is so worthwhile: sharing sandboxes, sharing opinions, sharing afternoons on the porch, and now, sharing books.

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