Monday, October 13, 2008
Books Alive! Is Back and Getting Better and Better!
When I moved to East Texas twenty plus years ago, I never dreamed I would be dealing with hurricanes. In fact, I moved from California to Texas because I was missing weather. What’s that old saying, “Be careful what you wish for?” Sunny San Diego, California was living like always you were always on vacation, sublime but after while; you miss work and a good thunderstorm. Great weather is boring. Growing up in Kansas, we were forever running for shelter from tornados. Electric storms were terrifying but also beautiful to watch in the night sky. Now with the onslaught of hurricanes, I can now say that I have lived through some beauties, Katrina, Rita, and mostly recently Ike.
Besides weather, I love reading. I am one of those people that forget to eat, sleep, and put off going to the bathroom until I am in dire straits because of a good book. I am a die hard booklover, thus have devoted my life to promoting reading. That is why I own a hair salon/bookstore, Beauty and the Book, and run the largest "meeting and discussing" book club in the country, The PUlpwood Queens! If I ain't reading, I'm not breathing!
A little back-story, one weekend on my birthday and it was one of those life changing ones, I decided to hold for myself a party. Only once in your life are you 49 and I was wanting a life changing experience. You may have heard this story before but like all good stories, they bear repeating. I had told all my family and friends that I had packed a bag, come kidnap me, and take me away for my birthday. I love surprises but I received the biggest surprise of my life. No one came to my party, no one. Talk about a life changing experience.
Now let me preface that by saying earlier in the day friends and family had stopped by to drop off gifts with reasons why they couldn’t join me later. A storm was brewing and it looked like a biggie! That just made my adrenaline run even faster with anticipation of my big surprise birthday. What happened folks was Hurricane Katrina hit!
My town had sandbagged the doors of businesses, we took cover. Jefferson seemed like it faired pretty well. Branches scattered, some trees down, a bit of water damage from the winds but what unfolded in the weeks ahead was something I had not ever imagined. Our town filled with displaced families that weekend from the hurricane. Good folks who drove out in their S.U.V.s, t-shirted and flip-flopped, maybe with the family pet, to ride out the weekend in our fair city that is known as a tourist town for it’s brick lined streets, museums, antiques stores, mom and pop eateries, bed & breakfasts, carriage and train rides on all the bayou. What happened that next Monday changed all of us! The levees broke.
What would you do if you lost everything? Your home and all it’s contents first, then no way to get home as it was flooded. What if you couldn’t get to your work or your bank? What if you were stranded in a town hours and hours away from home with the clothes on your back and maybe a credit card?
I believe that we all are about two weeks away from being homeless. You lose your job, your home, then how long can you go on a credit card? Not long my friends so that is when my church came into the picture. My church, The First United Methodist Church of Jefferson, began to help coordinate the efforts of helping these good folks, people displaced by the hurricane. My shop too became a place where they could go to get internet access, view the latest news on CNN or Fox as most bed & breakfasts did not have televisions, or perhaps get a relaxing shampoo. People were parked on my porch for hours just trying to get out of their rooms with no money to spend, just waiting. I brought out books and began reading in-between appointments to these folks and my children began reading to the children. For awhile we all were able to escape our lives and make time go perhaps a little less painfully slow as they waited for the word they could go home.
We are talking weeks. Weeks of waiting, most folks had to leave the bed & breakfasts as they had other reservations booked or their credit cards were declined. We opened the doors of our church and the community opened the doors of their homes. The Hamburger Store here in Jefferson through their own generousity and that of generous donations fed over 2,000 free meals. I never knew how much I loved Jefferson until that weekend. Our church and our town embraced mission and outreach.
My life was changed during those weeks as I will never look at a possession of mine the same way ever again including my books. What if that had been my family?
What I learned was that life is not about things. Life is about relationships. I had to do something to help but what? Being a bookseller, I didn’t have any real money to help. What could I do? I could do something that I do best. I could hold a Christian and Inspirational Author, Book, and Music festival to be a total fundraiser for the church. We call it Books Alive! You see the church depleted every resource they had from food and clothing bank, to funds to help others, to members of the church digging into their closets and pockets to help others.
The first year of Books Alive!, I emailed all my author friends to see who could come and help me put on this fundraiser. Denise Hildreth was one of the first authors to come aboard and guess what? Most of the authors to come aboard and let me state at their own expense were southern authors. That was nearly three years ago and it’s time again for Books Alive again, November 7 – 9th here in Jefferson, Texas. This will be our biggest year ever!
We have had quite a few more storms since then most recently, Hurricane Ike where we housed a family of almost fifty from Port Arthur, Texas at our church. I personally with my minister, Allison Byerley closed out our Books Alive account to help buy groceries and necessities for these people. We are back again this year flat broke. The family that stayed with us were Hispanic and even insisted on one night before they left cooking up a fiesta for all the volunteers. Great times my friends. The nicest people in the world. What if that had been our family?
I have to tell you I received the best birthday present that year and since then. One that I did not expect, but one that has made me a better person. If you are reading this you are a passionate reader. My books use to be my most cherished possessions but now I see them only as something to give away and share with others. My library use to be in my house, now I house my library in my heart. I have also found that they more you give, the richer your life becomes.
Every chance I get, I read these authors blogs. Everyone is a treasure. I am finding that a book loving community is all the home I will ever need. Share the love and pay it forward. And like me try to remember that your birthday should be worth celebrating by helping others. God made us all for a purpose and this Pulpwood Queen believes that is service to others through reading!
Tiara wearing and Book sharing,
Kathy L. Patrick
Founder of the Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs and author of “The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara Wearing, Book Sharing Guide to Life
Beauty and the Book
608 North Polk Street
Jefferson, Texas 75657
And for more information on Books Alive go www.booksalivejefferson.com
P.S. Photo above of my church this past weekend taken during break as we were unloading a semi-load of pumpkins for our fundraiser, PUMPKIN PATCH!