At the Start
It all began with a simple gesture. My daughter's school was having a book exchange. I thought to myself about the children who might not have a book to exchange. I had several books in my house and decided to donate some in my little brother's honor.
It was January 30th, the seventh anniversary of his death. I always reserved that day to mourn my loss, cry, and visit his grave. I saved up all my sadness throughout the year for this day so I could be happy the rest of the year without feeling guilty. When I took the books into the school, I felt a warmth I hadn't felt on January 30th in seven years. That day I decided to do it again next year, only I would ask others for books to donate as well.
As I prepared for the first Ben's Books event, I sent out emails and posted on Facebook about my need for "gently-loved" books. I was hoping to collect around 100 books. That would be enough for an entire grade level of children each to take home a free book to keep! As the date for the event came closer, the books started coming in mass amounts. I had no idea how many books I had since I had no time to count them (I teach full-time and am a mother of two).
The week of the event, it snowed! Our event had to be postponed. We rescheduled for March 7th, the day before his birthday and during National Reading Month. However, it snowed that week, too! Finally, we were able to have the first ever Ben's Books event on March 14th at Kempsville Meadows Elementary School!
Since we had an extra month to collect books, the donations kept rolling in. I sat down the night before to count them all. In the end I had over 1100 books ready to go.
I was humbled and left speechless. The night before the event, I just looked at all of the books and cried tears of happiness and gratitude. Most of the people who had donated books knew me when I lost Ben so suddenly. They each knew how it had devastated me and my entire family. It has taken almost a decade to start to feel "normal" again. My heart aches everyday for my loss. But I know that he was a "kind and gentle soul" as stated on his headstone. This is just a reflection of him and my way of helping to heal my heart.
On March 14, 2014, I held the first ever Ben's Books event at Kempsville Meadows Elementary School. That day I gave out over 474 gently-loved books to the students. Each child went home with their own book for free that night because of me and my little brother.
The ache in my heart lessened with each book that was taken and with each bright-eyed child clarifying that it was theirs to keep. The "oohs" and "aahs" from the students made me smile from within. The joy each one showed as they chose a book made all the hard work and late nights worth it.
Throughout the day, I had several students bring in books to donate as well. This brought my total somewhere around 1200 books in my collection. As they came in, we labeled them as Ben's Books and put them out for the taking.
My only request was that they pass the book along to someone else when they were done with it. I made the children promise to never throw away a book, but to always give it to another.
At the end of the day, I packed up all the books I had left. I realized that I had enough left over to do it all over again. So now, I am collecting books from anyone and at anytime.
My next Ben's Books event is scheduled for May 7th. Let's just hope that it doesn't snow again! :)