Honor and enjoy your Creator while you’re still young, Before the years take their toll and your vigor wanes, before your vision dims and the world blurs And the winter years keep you close to the fire. The words of the wise prod us to live well. They’re like nails hammered home, holding life together. They are given by God, the one Shepherd. But regarding anything beyond this, dear friend, go easy. There’s no end to the publishing of books, and constant study wears you out so you’re no good for anything else. The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you. Excerpts from Ecclesiastes 12 (The Message)
We had a big party at work today. My coworkers outdid themselves on decorations and food. The Historical Records Library looked lovely with all the fall colors, pumpkins, leaves and flowers. We served apple cake, Mississippi mud cake, carrot cake, cinnamon streusel cake, chocolate chip bars, cheese and crackers, dips and chips, tea and lemonade. About fifty people came up including four of our local county commissioners. What was the occasion? The thirtieth anniversary of the opening of our Historical Records Library. Thirty years ago today, a small crowd gathered on the west side of our 1918 Carnegie Library for a ribbon cutting ceremony. Two years before that, the building sat vacant after our county library moved into a new facility. With the old library abandoned, local historical and genealogical groups lobbied the Clerk of Circuit Court to establish a records library. While one group restored the building and removed its nasty shade of institutional green paint from the interior, another group assembled the documents to be housed there. By assembled, I mean just that. After microfilming, the pages of hundreds of old record books holding deeds, marriages, probates, mortgages and court cases were piled in a heap on the second story of a building across the street from the courthouse. With no rhyme or reason to the chaos, volunteers painstakingly sorted pages and compiled the books back in order. It was tedious work that took over a year. When you enter our library to do research today and easily access books dating back to 1855, there is no way to know how much effort went into preserving those documents. An elderly woman attended today’s event. Her husband pushed her into the building in her wheelchair. She looked around in amazement and then, in slurred speech whispered to me, “Once, I knew every page in this place. I knew where every book was stored. Now, I don’t know where anything is anymore.” Then, she laughed and confided, “But, I really don’t care to know either.” The exchange took me aback. Thirty years ago, as a volunteer, she gave as many hours as a full time worker to build the library and its collection. She was the one people went to for advice on how to find information and conduct research. Her volunteer work was her life and a valuable gift in creating a legacy for future generations of historians. But, now, it is meaningless to her. I didn’t know how to respond. Did I need to convince her that the time was not wasted? Or was she trying to tell me something? Was she reminding me that nothing really lasts? As she nears the end of her life, was she saying that only things of heaven are eternal and worthy of investment? I don’t know and will ponder the encounter. It reminded me of the verses above. While our work in this life is meaningful, there is more to come. An eternal life that will far surpass this earthly one.