It's Free

“Use up everything that is free first. Then if you have to, go out and buy something,” was Wendell Berry’s closing advice to the audience last Saturday morning.

Wendell Berry and Prof. Norman Wirzba of Duke Divinity School

Wendell Berry and Prof. Norman Wirzba of Duke Divinity School

It fit well with his down home wisdom to reclaim the earth and be good stewards of what God has asked us to care for. Often in today’s world, we cast off the slightly warn, for the “new and more expensive” whether it be the newest iPhone, or a younger spouse. Consumerism feeds our individualism as the more that we own and consume, the more important that we feel.

I was discussing Wendell’s closing comments with my friend who is 42 years old and he remarked that he grew up in the “Barnes and Noble” era. Reading was a passion, so he would often go to the bookstore as a young boy and even into college, not to just read, but to buy and possess. We talked about my completely different experience of growing up in a small town in upstate New York, and frequenting the public library twice each week. It was the best evenings when Mom would take me to the library after school and let me pick out three books to check out. I cared for them as I read, because I knew others behind me wanted to savor their words too. I’d return them to the custodian of the library who placed them lovingly back on the shelf and let me check out three more.

I still borrow from the Nashville Public library branches, requesting books on-line, downloading ebooks, and even checking out movies and CDs. It may seem paradoxical that as an author of a book, I’d recommend going to the public library. After all, isn’t it about the sales of a book that matter? Not really. For me, it is about people reading my book, not necessarily buying it. I’m hopeful that a single copy can be shared and discussed among friends, or checked out of a nearby public library. (Note: Robertson County Public Library in Tennessee has a copy of my book, Chasing My Father on circulation).

I’m more aware of the pleasures in life that are free: the shared laughter with a good friend, the clutch of a child first learning to ride a bike, or a walk in the park with my dog.

Is it true that the best things in life are free? I think that Wendell is on to something.

Blessings, my friend,

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