No is also a Word
Two summers ago after returning from a tiring round trip to Michigan, Lily and I drove one very hot day 3.5 hours from home to help a librarian with her summer reading program. She had called me on the phone weeks ago and begged me to come with my “Reader Dog.” She told me their summer funding had been cut, and the community .....
Well, I thought, I’m all about literacy, doing what I can. I was happy to help. So we returned from Michigan a day early, Lily made a trip to the groomers and I ironed her official “Reader Dog” neckerchief. We left our cool mountain air and drove cheerfully down the road to where it was so hot the tar melted.
I was feeling less charitable when I left there after two hours. There were no children there to read to Lily, and none that I could read to. No middle grades that I could talk to about books and reading. There were no kids, no program, no plan, no participants. There were 6-8 moms of toddlers standing around in their designer tennis outfits grousing with each other while the toddlers mauled books, hit each other, slobbered into their Sippy cups, and dropped Cheerios around the school library floor. No one was interested in Lily, me, books or reading and that included the librarian who I saw only briefly before she hid in her air conditioned office. The only person who spoke to us at all in two hours was a visiting grandmother, the guest of a toddler, whose repeated question, “Who’s watching the children,” was never answered. When I left no one said thanks for coming or even waved goodbye.
They could have done this without me. I’d not added one thing to their program. What was I doing there: a seven-hour round trip, mileage, gas, a hot retriever panting, and nine hours of my time? I learned from this trip to be selective. Ask specific questions. And remember that “No” is also a word.
Lily has passed on, but Buddy is learning the tricks of being a Reader Dog. He’s shy about looking at the pictures but he’s a very good listener, very patient. The little readers do love him. But we’ll be selective when he’s invited out.