I am irresponsible with library books. I check out way too many. I don't limit myself. Or my kids. Mostly, I just like to surround myself with books, even if I don't read them. I actually find it comforting to have a big stack of shiny library books next to my bed. I know that I can't get to all of then...but, just knowing that they're there if I need them...okay, it's a problem. I admit it.
But that's not my only problem. Apparently I'm terrible at renewing these masses of books I check out. I thought I had a 9 dollar library fine. When I went to check out more books today, the librarian told me I had, in fact, a 16 dollar fine. I had actually returned several books to the outside library box earlier that day, but they hadn't gone through yet. She said she'd just renew them for me...and well, now I owe 22 dollars. I wasn't sure how that computed, and I was frustrated. It was my second time to the library that day because I didn't realize it didn't open up until noon on Tuesdays.
I was annoyed about the steep library fine, but I was ready to pay just so that we could check out the books we'd come for. Only...they don't accept debit, just cash or check. Which I didn't have. This interchange lasted a few minutes. My daughter kept running away from me. When I told my son we could not check out books today, he started to throw one of his awesome public fits. The library was not my happy place just then. And that old guy in the white shirt waiting patiently for me to finish so that he could talk to the librarian? Well, I was sure he wasn't happy with me just then.
Just before my son lost it, my daughter decided to jet to the other end of the library. I gathered her up, grabbed my wallet she had placed on a random book shelf, and returned to the front desk. The librarian told me that I now owed $2.90, and I could check out my books.
What? I just assumed she was tired of our conversation and lowered it for me. So I thanked her. She told me that I didn't have to thank her. Then it kind of all came together for me. "Did someone pay my fine for me?" She nodded yes. The only person I could think of was the old guy in the white shirt. "Was it him?" It was. He paid my library fine down, she said, because he felt bad that my kids wouldn't have their books.
I couldn't believe it. Some stranger. I'll never know who he was. He paid my fine while I went to catch my daughter, and then he left. So I determined two things just then: 1) I'd never have a library fine again and 2) One day, when I have a chance to pay it forward, I won't hesitate.