I rang the number on my mobile associated with a text message I had received moments before. A young female voice with a Scandinavian accent answered and identified herself as Anna. “where are you” I asked. “I am outside the cafe she replied. I was too. I scanned the lunchtime crowd and spotted a fair-haired woman talking on her mobile in the corner”.
Three days earlier I had received an email via The Footpath Library website. “I’m travelling through Australia and I have a book that means a lot to me. I want to donate it, I don’t want it to be just thrown away.’ I was touched by Anna’s words. Her surname listed in the email possessed a combination of letters that made my head spin but I had watched enough Nordic noir dramas to guess the author of the email heralded from the far north of our world, a land of ice and snow. I was intrigued by the email, as the Book Resources Manager for the Brisbane branch, usually I receive kind offers of books by the dozen, the vestiges of a house move or the echo of an adolescent transitioning into adulthood. I had never received an offer of a single book and yet Anna’s earnest words, her declaration that this book that had made such an impact on her and her determination that this book be given to someone else who could also benefit struck a chord within me. I resolved to meet with Anna and collect the book personally.
Anna greeted me with a smile and a shake of the hand. We sat and ordered coffees and Anna proceeded to tell me her story. She had left her home town five months earlier, a town located two hours north of Helsinki. Her journey had taken her to Melbourne and she had travelled through Victoria, NSW and Tasmania staying with families that offered food and board in exchange for jobs around the house such as gardening. She had arrived in Brisbane and was to follow her compass needle north to Cairns and from there, perhaps Western Australia or South Australia. Anna handed me a small plastic bag, protection from the sudden tropical downpour that had drenched us both moments before. I took out the book, it was dry and in perfect condition and I read the cover, Hannah Hart’s ‘Buffering – Living a Life Fully Loaded, an Autobiography’. Anna had journeyed far and wide with this book, it had been her only travel companion. This book that had had a profound effect on her life but now it was time to for the book to continue its own journey, to touch the minds and souls of others. At The Footpath Library we often think about the recipients of the books but those that give the books also gain greatly.
For me, Anna’s story, her personal experience, is what The Footpath Library is all about – the ability to change views, provide comfort, escape to another dimension, another time, to validate oneself, to provide a connection with our humanity, this is the power of the written word. Anna’s gift will touch the life of someone else, of that, I am sure. We will make it so.