Marcel v. The Public
Posted on June 12th, 2013
an I have my prize?” the child wanted to know. (Marcel remembers him as being around 10 or so, but Marcel isn’t entirely reliable on such matters.)
“Not until tomorrow,” Marcel told him. “You have to take your reading log home first and then bring it back in. Then you can have your prize.”
There was a pause.
“I want the rocket,” the child informed Marcel, nonplussed. “Can I have my prize now?”
Today is the beginning of Marcel’s second week as a library volunteer. During his hours there, he is responsible for receiving children participating in the Albuquerque public libraries summer reading program warmly. He registers interested participants, stamps completed reading logs and hands out prizes from a box under the table where he’s stationed.
Like so many things I undertake with The Three, Marcel’s adventure as a library volunteer is already revealing itself to have been something I only considered at one or two of what I now see are 57 different angles. Marcel could benefit from some experience providing customer service, I thought. He could use some practice being polite and responsive, listening to what people are asking him to do instead of just pretending to. It will be good for him.
This from a person who worked fast food in high school, for God’s sake. How could I have forgotten about the nature of the public?
When Marcel was a preschooler, I remember watching him file out of chapel one morning when an impatient classmate shoved him from behind. It was not particularly malicious. The boy had decided Marcel was slow and decided to take matters into his own hands. Marcel stumbled a few steps before turning his head to seek out the face of this pushy person. Having located the source of this unexpected aggression and inspected it from head to toe, he turned to follow the rest of his class out of doors.
At the time I had what was, for me, a novel thought: ‘I am so glad this is happening to him here, where it is safe. I am happy that he gets to learn about being pushed by another three-year-old because, sooner or later, it’s coming.’
So last Thursday, when Marcel told me about having to wave over a librarian to intervene with the angry mother of a child who’d been denied a growth chart (another of last week’s prizes), I listened with enormous eyes. He wasn’t upset, though, and so I wasn’t sorry. But when he got to the part where he wandered off from his table only to return to find the single-minded child from earlier playing with a rocket he’d lifted out of the unprotected box under Marcel’s post, I wasn’t sorry either.
Be polite, know when to get help and never take your eyes off your box of rockets. Valuable lessons, each and every one and I am glad he is learning them there.∗