I once bought a bouquet of sunflowers with my (ex)husband. Stems like fuzzy celery. Sturdy. These are not stems, these are “stalks”. We bought sunflowers – it may have been at Kroger, not sure – and it was very bright outside. Bright when the sky slips somewhere between “blue” and “clear” and your eyes water and water, skin creases creased up in the lids like something newborn. We took the sunflowers-maybe-from-Kroger out into the sun and we passed them out to strangers.
At one point I took a picture of my (ex)husband holding the bouquet with the plastic still around it, and you can see that he looks like Jesus would have: squinting in the bright hot desert sun with his long hair and beard.
I am taking the picture, and my shadow makes a weird fence of black geometry across his stomach. This moment is free to see on facebook – way in the back, in 2008.
This is what people do: they cross paths and make an exchange. Usually it’s extremely simple. A few words about the weather. Innocent smiles out from beneath sunglasses on the street – waxy lips in the morning. Head nods. Maybe they even do something awesome and human and someone steps on a wayward foot, bumps a shoulder, elbow, knee – and everybody gets assured for 15 seconds that oh, it’s okay to not be perfect, Oh, thank God. Thank goodness. Thank Jesus with the sunflowers for you on the sidewalk.
Tonight is the 2nd annual World Book Night , and this crossing of paths and exchanging of things is about to get elevated. With 2012’s inaugural Book Night a success, this campaign to extend the hand of literacy to those without regular access to the good stuff launches once again starting tonight at 5pm – and our good friends at Carmichael’s Bookstore  are of course in on the action.
With some 80,000 people in the U.S., U.K.., Ireland and Germany participating, volunteers for World Book Night are each given 20 copies of a special edition – and totally free – title chosen from a list of 30 selected books. Each of these specially-produced volumes will be distributed to folks and communities where hardcopy books – or any books, really – are scarce due to means or access. 2012 saw 2.5 million books distributed into hands on this globe.
This year’s list includes everything from modern classics such as Fahrenheit 451 and The Handmaid’s Tale, to Tina Fey’s memoir Bossypants, as well as the timeless Phantom Tollbooth. Selections from other genres are represented as well, with titles in poetry, mystery, children’s and essay also making the cut.
Be on the lookout this night as World Book Night volunteers launch from Carmichael’s and come bearing the best kind of gift: culture. Because that’s what books are in the world, kids: culture. And they don't wilt like flowers do.
Image: Courtesy of World Book Night facebook page www.facebook.com