I love books. I am a card-carrying, certified book nerd. (Card carrying means I have a library card.) In the third grade, Mrs. Thomas had a chart with our names, and she placed a star beside our names for each book we read. My line of stars was, no exaggeration, four times longer than anyone else’s. It was not a competition; I just loved to read.
That’s why I hyper-ventilate walking into the public library. So many books! Where do I even start? And when you consider that between 500,000 and 1,000,000 new titles are added every year… hoo boy, that’s a lot of books to conquer.
No one in my family shares my love for libraries, but they’re not alone. Judging by the number of patrons in the local library, not too many people visit libraries anymore. I know online libraries like Libby account for a lot of that, but even then …. library patrons are a comparatively small lot.
But let me tell you about a wholly different library. It’s the Human Library. Started in Denmark over twenty years ago, the Human Library is now in 85 countries. At a Human Library event, the “book” you check out is another human being. For 30 minutes you listen to his or her story. You can interact with your “book,” but the purpose is to listen to a person with whom you might not ordinarily talk. These are just regular people you might pass on the street, but at the Human Library they carry subject titles like “refugee,” “unemployed,” or “bipolar.”
The goal of the Human Library is to fight prejudice, leading you to listen to someone you might not normally encounter or talk with. People become more than a label when we to see them as unique individuals with a story to tell.
The Human Library is a secular organization promoting diversity, but I’ll confess this struck me as a great idea for the church. Most of us who are regular church attendees interact with the same group of people week in and week out. This is true even in smaller churches, yet we are surrounded by people with wonderful, even surprising histories. And so many people are longing to tell their story—if someone would just listen.
This is especially true with the older adults in our churches. Maybe they can’t be as active as they once were, but they are still there. Sitting quietly on a pew. Forgotten. Yet with 70, 80+ years under their belts, the rest of us are missing some great stories.
So, what do we do to change this? It’s easy, and only requires one thing. Ready? Grab a pencil and write this down.
Talk to them.
I sat on a front pew one morning talking with a man in his eighties who was an atheist well into his sixties. The route to his belief and faith in Christ was fascinating.
I’ve sat across from others over lunch and I just made one request: “Tell me your story.” I’ve learned of family lives and work experiences I would never expect from those people. And in it all, I heard their journey of faith.
Everyone’s walk with Christ is unique and different. In the unfolding of their stories, I’ve been encouraged in my own walk. Couldn’t we all use that?
And on top of that, I’ve made a friend.
“You are to rise in the presence of the elderly and honor the old. Fear your God; I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:32).
“Remember the days of old; consider the years of past generations. Ask your father, and he will tell you, your elders, and they will teach you” (Deut. 32:7).
“Wisdom is found with the elderly, and understanding comes with long life” (Job 12:12).
Tell me your story.
Subscribe to this blog or like our Facebook page. And share this post with others.
If you would like a printable version of this, check out PrintFriendly.