“Why are all of these kids at the library?”
“Do these kids have parents?”
“If these kids are going to come to the library, they could at least shower before they come.”
Have you said any of these recently? Many of us have. I have. You probably have, too. We tend to think of our small, lackluster towns as though they are dumps because nobody in these towns cares enough to help rebuild their communities. It is as though we blame everyone else around us for the bleak blankets shielding our communities rather than lending hands to our neighbors in order to help each other stand up. We blame everyone else before asking ourselves, “What can we do to make these communities better places to live?”
We scoff when we see new reports about meth labs or drug deals on the streets because we distance ourselves from our own communities. It is as though we distance ourselves by saying, “[Insert town here] is so trashy. All we have here are drugs and unemployed residents,” then we separate ourselves from being parts of these communities; however, we do not stop to think about those people who live in these sections of these communities in which daily horrors run rapid throughout the streets.
Think about the last time you were at the library. Were kids grouped together, talking, without paying the slightest bit of attention toward the library’s resources? How many times have we asked, “Why don’t they just go home?” Have we ever followed up this question with: “Do they have a home?”
Houses contain four walls, people who may or may not live in them, minimal or even excess food, and they possess the possibility of encompassing furniture. They can include the bare minimum or they can even possess too many belongings. There is a large spectrum of what a house may or may not occupy within its four walls. Homes are different, though. Homes have people who encourage dreams beyond their city limits, people who inspire their children to pursue their passions, and materials for children to expand their knowledge about the world.
Listen to the stories these children keep within themselves. If you listen long enough, they might tell you a haunted house on their street has “creepy sounds of people screaming” and “drugs that make your eyes bleed.” To the average child, this story–a story told by their parents or other adults around them–probably seems as though it is a haunted house; however, to the average listener, this house possesses nightmares of drugs and abuse beyond the minds of mere nine-year-old girls in a public library. Do we want these girls to go back to their houses and pass by this haunted house with sounds creeping from the confined walls resembling tortured screams?
Children should feel welcome in the library. Here, they are given a place in which they can warm their bones in the cold months, and maybe even meet other children who experience their same terrors day after day. Here, staff members can offer movie nights, book clubs, and crafts to children who only venture home when they need to sleep at night–only if their guardians allow this.
Rather than succumbing to the thought of these children only taking up space in the local library, we should acknowledge thoughts we never have to suffer on our own: While these children and teenagers might have houses to visit, they may not possess homes quite like the public library.
Lauren is a Ball State University alumna with a Bachelor's degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. She enjoys breakfast for dinner with a side of literary enjoyment.