The following happened a couple years ago, but I thought I'd share it in honor of National Library Week. It was one of those moments that reminded me what an incredible privilege it is to be in the position to help people as a librarian.
A young woman came into the library, several months pregnant. Privately, I admired her adorably round belly and chic maternity dress. (I was pregnant at the time, too, and was always noticing other pregnant women.) She passed me on her way to the children's section, and I smiled to indicate that I was there to help, but she didn't seem to have any questions. About half an hour later, though, she approached the reference desk.
"Can you recommend any children's picture books that are really popular?"
"Sure! Are you looking for books on any particular subject, or just ones that are classic and well-liked?"
"Well... probably ones that are just classic... This is going to sound kind of morbid, but my husband is going to Iraq and we want to make some videos of him reading, just in case he doesn't come back..." And she gestured to her pregnant belly.
I didn't miss a beat, didn't make a big deal out of it, but my heart started breaking right then and there.
"I'm sure we can find just the thing!"
As we walked to the picture books, I fumbled around for the right words.
"I hope everything goes smoothly with your husband being away."
"Yeah, me too... This will be a good thing to do anyway, making the videos, since he'll be gone for the baby's first seven months..."
"Absolutely! It's just temporary."
I found her several books and wished her well, saying "Have fun making the videos," wanting to sound confident that this was not morbid at all, and that her husband will be coming back. She didn't strike me as seeking pity or wanting anyone to make a fuss, so I didn't. Sometimes it's hard to maintain that professional barrier; of course I wanted to break down and tell her how sorry I was, how hard it must be, how scary... but I didn't think that was what she needed. She needed me to hear her and help her find some good books, and I did that for her.
It's really an honor to be part of a profession where I can help people like this, help them through something difficult- even in the smallest of ways. I hope that woman's husband will be back home before she knows it, bouncing their baby on his knee.