Nursing a Grudge

From the moment I learned to love books, I have had a love-hate relationship with the library.

Before I could read, I loved the library because it held a treasure-trove of books with pictures. I could pull them off the shelves and invent the stories in my head. Sure, I knew that someone else had created words that directed the story of the pictures, but I didn’t care. The pictures contained all I needed to create my own version. I loved the library.

When I finally learned to read at the advanced age of eight, I had a traumatic experience at the library. The austere lady at the desk grimaced in disdain when I brought my stack of 22 books to check out. Mostly chapter books. “You’ll never finish those in two weeks,” she accused me. “What’s the point in checking them all out now?”

I hated the library. I nursed a secret grudge against librarians—lumping everyone in the profession behind that pointy finger of warning. Her words served as a challenge, and two weeks later I proudly returned all 22 books—read (the 12 chapter books) and reread (the 10 picture books).

The older I became, the more difficulty I had returning books to the library on time, though. School, life, marriage, children, and work all got in the way of my reading addiction. But I still checked out books—which created my problem with refinement.

Searching High and Low

Every library has its unique fee scale. Children’s books carried a ten-cent-a-day fine. Adult books (presumably because adults are more responsible) carried a dollar-a-day fine. I usually kept up on returning books in a timely manner, but the summer Pedro had cancer, things got out of hand.

I received a letter from my local library informing me that I owed $98.00 in fines. In my defense, I let my daughters check out books on my card—so now three of us with varying degrees of addiction made regular treks to the library.The most important lesson I ever learned in a library didn't come from a book.

In addition, my fines had fines because of non-payment. They sent the original notice to an old email address that I never checked. I had been re-fined.

I scrambled around the house, seeking library books under the kids’ beds, between sofa cushions, in car pockets, and under that pile of clean laundry I hadn’t folded in three weeks.

As I found each book, I checked it off the list. A fog of hopelessness rolled over me. How would I find them all? In 12 hours I had a flight to San Francisco where I would spend a week with Pedro as he received yet again another cancer treatment.

My life over the past five months had fallen and risen with the state of Pedro’s health. The $98.00 fine seemed like the last nail in my coffin. I sat on the floor next to the bed and sobbed.

Call the library, the voice of common sense whispered in my ear. I picked up my phone and punched in the number—praying that my latent fear of librarians and tear-sogged voice would hold out through my explanation.


I don’t remember exactly what I said to her, but I do remember telling her I couldn’t find all of the books. My apology turned into an explanation for why I had let things slide and a promise that I would bring as many books in as I could find. My voice disobeyed me and rose and fell on the crackling scale as tears poured down my face. Snot turned my voice nasal.

“It’s ok,” the gentle voice on the other end of the line assured me. “I’ve gone through and excused all of your fines. In addition, I’ve rechecked out all of the books on your card for an entire month. If you need more time, just call and let me know.”

When I hung up the phone, a bemused smile flicked across my face. I love the library. Grace, pure and simple, had poured through the phone through the unlikely voice of the librarian.

Silly grudges shouldn't prevent me from treating everyone I encounter with #grace. Click To TweetI didn’t even have to ask. Oh, that I would remember to extend the same grace to those around me. I want to be refined like the librarian, not to re-fine others for their offenses against me. Silly grudges or past experiences shouldn’t prevent me from treating everyone I encounter with grace.


  1. 🙂 Your tweet may need to be refined. (at least how it reads at the moment)
    Oh Anita, what a moving story of grace. Thank you. I cannot imagine the pain and frustration at that notice of missing books at a time of stress.

    And another beautiful word usage. Many people will feel that they are paying the fine for their sin again and again and do not allow Jesus to pay their fine once and for all. We must learn from this.
    Blessings to you, dear friend!
    (#80 this week, two behind you!)

  2. What a great story. I think it is interesting how one bad experience left you having a bad taste in your mouth for all Liberians. Sometimes one person can really hurt us so it hard to remember that was just one moment in time. Good for you for calling. So happy you got some much needed grace.
    Amanda recently posted…A Woman Overseas – We Can Do So MuchMy Profile

    1. I know–and it’s also amazing how long I can cling to a silly grudge. There comes a point in our lives when we have to let those grudges go in order for grace to heal the hurts.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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