I found out about World Book Night (WBN) from a Penguin Press (@PenguinPress) tweet. It's an opportunity for people, or bibliophiles like myself, to share their love of books with light and non-readers. Potential givers fill out an application and are chosen based on how they plan on delivering the books in their community. In addition, their location is taken into consideration. WBN wouldn't want a ton of their givers to be in New York, while Ohio had none. I looked through the titles, and decided that La Casa en Mango Street by Sandra Cisernos would be a great choice for Buffalo.
Buffalo has a significant population of Hispanic community members. Many of these people are in a low income bracket, especially those whose native language is Spanish. I used to live in Buffalo's west side, and I taught in the Buffalo Public Schools. I saw so many Spanish speakers with so little books available to them. Without a great deal of disposable income, owning a book is a luxury for many of these people.
I chose to give away books to people working in the service industry in downtown Buffalo, as well as people on the west side, going along with their daily routine. I also visited Hispanics United of Buffalo to give away books. It was a strange feeling to give books away to random people. Most were very appreciative. They smiled at my broken Spanish.
At the same time, it was almost awkward for me to give someone a gift. It wasn't because I am afraid to talk to strangers. Instead, I didn't want them to think I was trying to promote anything besides literacy. I would tell them, "It's a good book. I'm giving this to you to promote reading. It doesn't have to do with religion or buying anything." People hand out flyers on the street so that people will go into a store. They walk into businesses and drop off pamphlets promoting a religion. So often when someone gives another person a gift, especially if it is a stranger, it is to promote a belief or get money out of them. There are invisible strings.
I look forward to hopefully having this opportunity again. It felt good. In fact, it was nothing but good. I felt good, and those I gave it to felt good. The community and individuals benefit from acts of kindness. I am going to make it a point to perform random acts of kindness on a conscious basis.
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