A couple years ago, my mom and I signed up to be on a make-ready team at Mobile Loaves & Fishes, a local nonprofit in Austin serving the needs of the homeless and poor. Make-ready is the preparation period for the following truck run; it mainly includes making sandwiches and loading the truck.
We randomly chose to join the make-ready team for the second Wednesday of each month. Our first shift, we arrived early and met a woman named Valerie. She told us she would be helping us make sandwiches but that she was also going out on the truck. As our conversation continued, Valerie shared she had just moved into her new apartment after being homeless for quite some time. The truck we were making sandwiches for was Team 888; it is comprised of current and formerly homeless people.
As we smeared peanut butter and jelly, Valerie and I continued our conversation. She was (and still is) admirably open about her experience on the street. Somehow, our conversation moved towards books, and Valerie shared with me how important books were to her when she was homeless, as they are for many others. She told me she spent many hours of the day, and at night by flashlight, reading. This was ultimately the inspiration for Books for the Journey.
But after we finished making the sandwiches, my mom and I went outside to meet Danny where he was loading the truck. Danny is the leader of Team 888 and a previously-homeless preacher. You never see him without his “God is good all the time” hat. Danny now lives at Community First!, the community of tiny homes Mobile Loaves & Fishes has created.
Soon, my family joined the Team 888 support team, and the next month, my mom and I followed the Team 888 Mobile Loaves & Fishes truck in my car—with a library set-up in the back. We visited what was then Danny’s village, and a handful of people were interested in the books.
We did this a few more times, and then I decided to give it a name:
Books for the Journey.
Which brings us to why we're here.
For many of us, reading is a hobby, a pastime.
I’ve always enjoyed reading, out of and in school, but with school, extracurricular activities, and just high school, in general, seem to overwhelm all my time. In the free moments, I fantasize about picking up a book, but it always seems so daunting. I don’t want to speed-read for twenty minutes. I want to layout in the dewed grass on a cool morning or curl up in a corner with a fabulous book. I think we all get so
comfortable with being busy that free time scares us, so we pick up our phones, and check our emails and Instagram instead.
Imagine having several hours of your day, evening, and night free. For me, without school and other activities, I would be anxious. Sitting still truly stresses me out. But, what if you didn’t have school, work, or something to fill your time? We often hear that free time is the devil’s playtime. What if our idle time was filled with something positive? What if we filled our time with Little Women, Tuesdays with Morrie, or Harry Potter instead of something negative? Literature can transport us into the minds of characters in other worlds and situations. But what we often forget is how much these characters affect us—what we learn from them.