Here is a story written by FVM Jen Midura who is living and serving in Camden.
We were finally on our way to the bookstore.
For a few months, Vianca (a cute-as-a-button, whip-smart 7th grader at St. Anthony’s school) and I had planned a trip to Barnes & Noble. She had a few gift cards saved up, but her Mom worked so much she couldn’t take her daughter there, and didn’t even know where the store was located. There aren’t any bookstores in Camden, after all.
That Sunday, our schedules finally lined-up. Vianca and I chatted away as I drove her to the Barnes & Noble in the neighboring town. We talked about her friends, school, what college was like. Conversation flowed as she peppered me with questions about the people she saw in pictures on my phone.
When we arrived at the bookstore, Vianca didn’t know where to go. She stood stunned at all the shelves, and when I steered her into the children’s section, she gasped in awe at the sheer number of books. We made a beeline for the shelves. Suddenly, she paused, turned to me and asked, “Jen, are these the kind of books we have to return in two weeks?” It was her first time in a bookstore!
Watching her pick out books both melted and broke my heart. Being a voracious reader, I know the excitement and potential of a good book -- or a good bookstore -- holds. To open Vianca’s eyes to this was fulfilling, but hard to swallow, since she has limited opportunities to read or own books.
When we went to pay, Vianca found that a book she wanted pushed the total over the limit of her gift cards and allowance. I bought her a sugar cookie from the café and gave it to her along with the book she had put back on the shelf. Who knew when she’d ever make it back if it had taken so long to get there? Besides, I hate to see a good book left behind. Her smile was worth a million bucks as we left the store. “I went to a library one time during summer camp and it was kind of boring,” she confided in me. “But who knew book places could be so much fun?”