Gift Culture: Just in Time Library

by Sangeeta Bhagwat

Books have been an inherent part of my life. Over the years, I selected them carefully and guarded them closely. They have been a source of inspiration, wisdom, laughter, tears, and so much more.

For many years, I would conduct an interview before even lending a book. Will you look after it? Make sure you don’t fold the pages! When will you bring it back? Family and friends would be exasperated, but they would put up with it, because I really had some great books! Many were expensive or hard to get a hold of.

But, all that changed about ten months back. My friend, Sheetal Sanghvi, began discussing how his collection was gathering dust, and he wanted to give it away. He suggested I should do the same. Sheetal told me to imagine how much difference the books could make to another’s life. Just as they had impacted me, another would benefit. As I listened to him, I realized that I had read many of them several times. Also, it was easier to look up material on the internet now, rather than search through the books. I was simply holding on, because it was hard to let go.

I reminded myself of all the lessons I have learned over the years, an important one being that nothing is permanent. It was unrealistic to cling to objects and try to keep things unchanged.

Besides, Sheetal’s argument was highly persuasive. So, with a deep breath, I agreed. Sheetal immediately carted away dozens of my books, clearing one shelf at a time. The stagnant energy was suddenly flowing, and I could feel the bookcase, the room, myself, feeling lighter. It felt really good to imagine those beautiful masterpieces finding new lives to touch.

With some of Sheetal’s books and other donations, we set up ‘Spread the Word’ at The Urban Ashram. This is a library which has no cards, no supervision. People are encouraged to take books and pass them on. They may also add to the collection if they wish.

Each time I visited the Urban Ashram, my satisfaction grew. I felt happy with my decision. I continued giving away my books to whoever asked for one. I shared the idea with many others. There were mixed reactions. Some thought it made no sense. But many others took to the idea with enthusiasm and began doing it themselves. When I spoke to my friend Arun about this, we discussed how abundance principles, Misogi, space clearing, and so many teachings and practices support such movement. He also said something that stayed with me. Arun said that we tend to accumulate material just in case we ever need it again. But if we are willing to trust the process of life, let go and be in flow, we can count on the universe providing us whatever is needed just in time!

This entire exercise had yielded a lot of positivity and learnings for a lot of people, including myself. Because you really learn when you practice the teachings that appeal to you.

Last evening, I remembered my favorite comic books, Calvin and Hobbes. They were particularly precious to me, not only because I thoroughly enjoyed them, but they were possibly the last of Sameer’s possessions I had held onto for all these years. I felt a brief moment of sadness when I realized I no longer had them. I had given away the entire collection to Sheetal. I reminded myself how everything is in divine order, and how the universe is constantly looking out for me. What I truly need is provided in the moment. I thought of how much Sheetal had been enjoying them, and I smiled and moved on.

I had been on a sabbatical and mostly keeping to myself. But one day, Sheetal called and insisted on meeting me. So I went to meet him. We had a nice chat about some other matters. As I was leaving, he called me back and handed over three Calvin and Hobbes! I was stunned at the timing and even more at what he said. He realized that it was difficult for him to pass on these particular books, as he found them too precious himself. So, he thought about how hard it must have been for me to give them away. “They are a part of you, and you should have them back,” he told me. When I mentioned that it was only yesterday that I had been missing them, he said they had not been getting attention. They had been lost in all my other books. Now, with less of them, they came back, called by the heart to come home.

What a lovely validation from the universe.

I really do feel taken care of right now, emboldened to trust life more and more every day. We are provided what we need — just in time.