by Kevin Burton
There is one much overdue good deed I will not get to do.
I was looking through my language arts books for a Spanish text I got from my sister. The text was actually property of Wichita West High School and should have been returned to them.
I never bothered sending it back, or giving it to my sister to send back. Maybe I thought I would use it because I do know some Spanish and need refreshers. Maybe since I went to Wichita South High I thought, well too bad for West!
Got it in my head this week to do the right thing – my sister’s right thing – and return it to the school.
I looked in the two logical places where it would be, but it wasn’t in either spot. Not sure what happened to it.
What made me think of this book was an article by Ben Hooper on United Press International about a New Mexico woman who returned a book to a library in Indiana, 52 years overdue.
“The Kokomo-Howard County Public Library said in a Facebook post that the book, Little Men by Louisa May Alcott, arrived in the mail along with a letter from the woman who checked it out when she was only 11 years old,” Hooper wrote.
“The book, a sequel to Alcott’s Little Women, had been due back July 31, 1969,” he wrote.
My sister’s borrowed book would have been a mere 35 years overdue.
The children’s book borrower has the last name Faithful. Five decades after the fact, she lived up to her name.
“Melanie Faithful said she checked the book out when she was a young girl and ended up keeping it past the due date when she fell in love with the story. The book came with her when the family moved to Tennessee two years later, and it made multiple moves with her in the ensuing years,” Hooper wrote.
“There is no question how much I love this book,” Faithful told the Kokomo Tribune. “And I didn’t want to give it up. But I also knew the longer I held it, the more I owed. I wasn’t being very rational about it. It’s so funny, because when you’re a kid and you don’t have a lot of money and your parents don’t have a lot of money, those things loom large.”
For the next 50 years, “Little Men” traveled with Faithful any time she moved. She’d pack it up, take it out, and display it on the bookshelf in her new home.
And every time she packed it, she wondered if she should mail it back. The guilt would weigh on her, but she still couldn’t bear to return it.
“I would think, ‘You know, you should send that back,’” Faithful told the Tribune. “And then I had that way of a child, like I did something wrong. It’s that southern Baptist upbringing. I was like, ‘I stole that book, but I still love it.’”
“Faithful, who now lives in Santa Fe, said she was sorting through her books recently when she came across Little Men and decided it was time to return it,” according to the UPI story.
“She mailed the book to the library along with an apologetic note and a check for a donation to the library,” Hooper wrote.
“It wouldn’t cover what my entire fee would be if they had compound interest from 1969, but maybe it’ll keep them from being mad at me,” Faithful told the Tribune.
“Lisa Fipps, director of marketing at Kokomo-Howard County Public Library, said library records didn’t even have the book listed as missing, likely as a result of cataloging changes over the years. She said the facility doesn’t charge late fees for children’s or young adult section books, but even at the 1969 rate Faithful wouldn’t have faced a fine of more than $5,” Hooper wrote.
“Fipps said the book will probably end up being sold at an upcoming library sale, and she is hoping to buy it for her own collection to commemorate Faithful’s story.”