Finding a treasure trove of books

Life Moments column
By Christine Bryant

A few weeks ago, I was on one of my nightly walks through my neighborhood. It was a Wednesday night, which meant the not-so-sweet smells of the night before trash collection would at times invade my senses.

Little did I know that as I walked along the sidewalk that trash would soon turn into treasure.
Walking up to a home, the site of several boxes full of books on the curb caught my eye. As someone who enjoys reading when I can find the time, I was curious.

Knowing rain was coming that night and garbage trucks the next day, I began combing through the boxes until it was so dark I could barely see the titles.

I must have caught the attention of someone as I sat on the sidewalk, one by one, taking each book out and flipping through the pages. Occasionally, I would see a pick-up truck slowly drive by, its bed full of items someone had picked up from the curb that the driver thought might be valuable in some way.

Who was I to judge? I was sitting on a stranger’s curb, rummaging through what the owner of that home had deemed as unwanted while staking my territory by giving dirty looks to fellow trash pickers as they scouted the scene.

Because I was a good 15 minutes from home and other trash pickers were on my heels, I knew I had one chance to grab what books I could. All of the books were easily decades old, with many textbooks and yearbooks from Licking County communities.

Some had people’s names scribbled in them. Others had once found a home in a library – with the library’s rules firmly attached to the inside cover.

Despite the age of the books – many were from the early 1900s – most were perfectly intact, including one I consider my prized find, an early edition of “Aesop’s Fables.”

I loaded up as many as I could carry and headed home, appreciating how my casual walk had turned into a full workout lugging an armful of books for a mile hike.

When I arrived home, I carefully began inspecting the books more closely. As I slowly turned each page that had browned with age, I was amazed by how what one person considered trash another could consider so valuable.

If anyone knows how technology has changed the methods by which a person gains knowledge, it’s someone who has worked in the newspaper industry. Tablets, phones and computers have changed the way news is delivered. Even casual reading has changed, with Nooks, Kindles and other tablets offering an easy way to condense shelves of books.

Call me old school, but I love the feel of a book in my hands. Don’t get me wrong. Again, I’m not judging. I have a Kindle myself that I occasionally use.

Nothing, however, takes the place of walking through a bookstore, waiting for a cover or book spine to catch your eye before immersing yourself in another world.

As I flipped through “Aesop’s Fables,” I was reminded of the powerful words a book can provide: “It is a great art to do the right thing at the right season.”

Maybe it’s because of this hostile election season that I took these words to heart, but it also reminded me that these words aren’t ones I likely would come across surfing the internet. I only came across this important reminder that we can all learn from by flipping through a book, albeit a book I found on the side of the road.

Sometimes life’s great lessons come to us in ways we could never predict. My lesson I learned?

Always keep your eyes open. You never know what you’ll find that will offer a little inspiration and reflection.

Christine Bryant is a Messenger staff writer and columnist.

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