I’m writing this blog while on duty for the provincial election. Our church is a polling station and a member of the congregation must be present at all times. It’s a small duty. I need to show people where the washrooms are and where we keep the coffee cups. In an extreme case, I can shut off the water and electricity. I’m playing a very small role in public life and I’m glad to do it. High school social studies courses talk about “civic duty,” but I’m inclined to call it “civic privilege.” I’m blessed to live in a land with a free vote, a free press and freedom of assembly, among other things. I’m honoured to contribute to that society.
Another example of civic privilege occurred in our city this weekend with the Times-Colonist book sale. For the past twenty years our local newspaper has organized a gigantic used book sale. Members of the public are encouraged to clear out their unwanted books and donate them to the sale. An army of volunteers unpacks them, sorts them, lays them out on tables and returns forgotten photos or stashes of money found between the covers. The proceeds of the sale go to literacy programs in area schools.
It all began as a one-off idea by a concerned citizen, worried about cuts in the education budget. The newspaper editor agreed. Expecting only a few boxes, he offered to store them in his office until sale day. It wasn’t long until he realized his mistake. When the paper published a request for used books they were overwhelmed by the response. Tens of thousands of volumes appeared on their doorstep. That first sale raised $20,500.00. Over it’s life-time the sale has raised $5,000,000.00 for local schools and reading programs.
Not only do schools receive a generous cheque, the day after the sale teachers are invited to come in and scoop up the leftovers for free. (Books sell for $1.00, $2.00 and $3.00) After the teachers, local charity stores stock up their shelves. This year the city police department came in and made off with a few bundles of free reading for prisoners in the cells. What can’t be sold is sent to an international charity that donates books around the world. My old coffee table book may end up in a mission school in Africa.
The one-off idea failed. The book sale is now a feature of our community life. The local curling club has become the sorting/selling hub of the enterprise. An army of volunteers plans their vacations around the book sale. New friendships are forged, old acquaintances renewed, and books get into the hands of readers. It’s a win/win/win for everyone. It couldn’t happen without good citizens, people who step up to fill a need, people who get behind a great idea, people who make a difference.
So, as I donate a little time to ensure my civic privileges, I’m proud to be part of such a caring, sharing, and responsible community. Happy voting, everyone.