Give and Take

We love Boise, Idaho. Absolutely love it! On one of our regular walks, we discovered a new addition to the neighborhood, a Take a Book — Leave a Book stand. Completely weatherproof and chock full of good reads, I could hardly wait to get home, find a book, run back, and trade it in.


The give and take concept works beautifully in this context: Take one book. Leave one book. A delightful balance.

Their both important — give and take — yet sometimes they can be a bit unbalanced:

  • Some people giving while rarely taking
  • Others taking while rarely giving

What is your relationship with give and take?

© Laurie Buchanan

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85 thoughts on “Give and Take

  1. I’ve wanted to start one these book stands in our neighborhood. However, I’d call it a Free Neighborhood Libray, leaving it up to the individual to decide whether to trade a book for book, take a book, or just leave a book. Giving and taking can be very difficult for some. But the joy of reading a book needs to be maintained whether or not or not a person gives or not.

  2. I LOVE this little book stand! How cool! There is a book place like this in my parent’s condo. As for the taking/giving…I think it evens out in the end. The Universe might nudge one person to take a book and then give a homeless person a coffee. It might not look like it evens out in the little book stand, but perhaps it does in a larger picture of life…

  3. I happened to come across something like this last week in Carlsbad CA. I also happened to have an extra book in my car which was destined for donation. After I placed my book in one of the stacks, I amused myself reading the odd collection of obscure titles. Soils engineering tables!? I discovered a Schaum’s guide on Finite Mathematics which, believe it or not, is a great find for me. To each their own. 🙂 I’d love to see more of these.

    • ViewPacific — My husband would have thoroughly enjoyed finding the mathematics book, too. I can’t picture myself reading it on Moonlight Beach though. My preference would be a good fiction/mystery book 🙂

  4. I love this LittleFreeLibrary, shaped like a bird house. Like a Bookmobile for adults – how cool!

    My relationship to give and take? I prefer giving, but it seems I am always outfoxed. Yesterday I made a meal for two Ukrainian friends, but they came in the door with a box of chocolates and a teddy bear with the Ukrainian flag colors, a reminder to pray for their country in dire need.

    Receiving is a harder for me, but I am learning to cultivate it as a grace. During the time of our Mother’s passing, gifts of food and comfort came in the front door in seemingly endless supply, and I was humbled and blessed by it all. Givers create wealth by their generosity.

  5. I am entranced with that book stand . Just the very idea makes me yell to my husband please make me one of those . Is it made of wood or metal ? Like you say Laurie it needs to be weather proof you wouldn’t want to ruin those wonderful books .

    Here in the U.K. we have World Book Night in April ( do you have this in the U.S ?) If you choose to be a giver ( I have been on for the last couple of years) you are issued with 30 or so of your favorite book, on the list, and you give to people who have maybe never read a book in their lives . There are many out there that don’t . It encourages people to read and to discover the joy in reading …fab.

    By the way we moved in to half house last weekend …Love it …love it …love it . It was hard to leave my lovely house of 26 years but we are here .
    Glad you love Boise …we have made the right choices .

  6. Love your joy about the discovery of the give and take book box library. I’ve heard of them but never knew anyone who used one. Yours is very colorful.
    I’m both a giver and taker/receiver. I most enjoy as most in my family do as well, the giving. Receiving when there is true need is more difficult. When I was young, the oldest of twelve and in high school, I remember each home room putting together food and gifts for a family of 12. I too contributed a gift I purchased with my own money and cans of fruit and vegetables (not the kind no one wanted). I recall too being upset when some
    classmates seemed thoughtless and cheap in
    their giving. My home room teacher, a
    Catholic Sister, asked me if my dad could help with the delivery. He was always a giver, later President of a local Chapter of the Loyal Order
    of the Moose who helped orphans at Mooseheart Home, so he agreed. I was
    shocked when we arrived, and as you may
    have guessed it, she told us (and this was privately) the items plus a turkey were for my
    family. It stung; I was ashamed. My dad accepted with grace.
    My lesson was giving must be done with
    sensitivity and attention to maintaining the
    self-esteem of the receiver. And that when we give we must give the best we possibly can.
    So even now when I give to our local pantry I give the best brand name organic large cans of fruits and vegetables plus some treat foods. I will never forget what it feels like to receive when you are in need.
    Laurie, perhaps this is much heavier response than what you were looking for. If so don’t post it.
    It’s just what came to mind.

    • Audrey — Tears stung my eyes as I read your response born of first-hand experience. I love the wisdom you shared about giving with sensitivity and attention to maintaining the recipient’s self-esteem. Thank you.

      • Thank you for being with me in that tough moment Laurie. I think am going to correct a couple of typos or zealous auto correct changes and place this story in my Family Genealogy Audrey’s Stories binder.

    • I was really touched by this response. What a wonderful memory, of how giving and taking can co-exist in such a harmonious way. It brought to mind an experience from my childhood when we had to seek shelter one night at the home of the local preacher, and how they took extra care to provide each child with a small toy, to ease the sting of being misplaced. For one brief moment, we we’re homeless, but rather, we were children with full bellies and smiles on our faces, caught up in the joy of playful exuberance. To this day, I still remember the toy that was given to me – a Slinky. Happily bending and bouncing in every direction, erasing away the fear of our circumstance.

  7. For the past several years, I have used one of these “LittleFreeLibrary” stands in Fairhope, AL when I visit there for work. Like “viewpacific,” I appreciate the unexpected, non-curated experience. My books disappear; new ones from unknown strangers appear. For me, receiving is difficult, but I’m learning that receiving is required of me and brings different gifts from giving.

    • Kathleen — I love that you “appreciate the unexpected, non-curated experience.” Each day on our walks we see different titles peeking through the window, so we know that others are enjoying the benefits of this little exchange as well.

  8. I love that idea of take a book, leave a book. I’ve read about it before, but have only come across it once in the changing rooms of the gym where I used to go a couple of years ago.
    I think we strike a happy balance in my family and nobody takes advantage of anyone else’s good nature. A simple principle that, if followed by everyone, would make for a very happy world indeed! 🙂

  9. Great idea! I found a book in Paris that somebody had left with a note with the same idea. I must pass it on once I’m done (or do the same with another book) but like the actual mini-library…:)

  10. Laurie,

    I have seen one of these somewhere before? Great idea. When I live in upstate NY the local library had a couple of book columns that were filled with books for free. I suppose one could bring old books to replace them.
    I was once waiting for a train, when the incoming train stopped passengers streamed out, one woman lean down to leave a book on the seats of the platform as she adjusted something. I called to her as left, she said, “I leave these for whoever wants them.” Nice gesture.
    There was a great little store of used books when I lived in Philly, just a few blocks away, that I would haunt fairly often to exchange books. Why pay when you can exchange.

  11. Those little book-sharing stations are a kick, Laurie. I often think they would not work so well in every community, but I still love that they do in so many. It gives me hope.

    I enjoy opportunities to give, not only because I know it will come back to me, but simply for the satisfaction that I HAVE enough to give – it’s an act of recognition and confidence in prosperity!

  12. The bookstand is so far beyond awesome! As far as give and take – I “always” feel like people “take” from me. Such a hyperbolic statement means, I probably need to see what it is I feel selfish about sharing. And maybe I need to learn to receive and value what others have to give. There are relationships and people that seem to “drain my soul.” But again, I need to take responsibility for how I allow myself to feel. These aren’t relationships I can discontinue. So, I need to manage my mental state prior to interacting and especially after spending time with such folks. I need to not let my frustration turn to anger. And maybe even one day, turn my frustration to pleasure. (It would be so much easier if I could just control everyone LOL!!!!) Another very thoughtful post!

  13. Laurie you have a winning post here where the comments are as engaging as the post itself! And great photography of the wee stand! Freely giving and taking gracefully are a communication art that I believe we will appreciate and find most useful in our human future. It is the receiving of things that I neither need nor want where I have to work hardest to catch my footing and say that “thank you.” I learned because of this to say things at times “I thought you might like this but if you find you are finished with it, feel free to pass it along.” And this is what I sometimes do with things I receive that are more than I need or want…. I find homes for them or I re purpose them – without guilt or explanation to the giver.

    • Terrill – Once again I see that we are cut from the same bolt of cloth. Your sentiment about receiving things that you neither need or want are twin to mine. Likewise, the final dispersal of them in repurposing and/or finding homes for them 🙂

  14. An outdoor bookstand is a wonderful idea. We have free book swaps in local cafes and in London I’ve attended a book meet with fellow readers. I always find great conversation and fun way to socialize. Sharing knowledge is crucial for our well being, during these trying times. Enjoy your day everyone!

  15. Laurie! I always look forward to your blog! I am a giver. I tend to give more and take very little. I love to see the expression on people’s face when I give them something they were not expecting!

    The book stand is awesome!

  16. Laurie, we have a little free library box close by also. I’ve been meaning to go open it up. It’s next to a bus stop on the campus of Eastern Mennonite University. I think I’ll go contribute a copy of Blush to the collection. I enjoy being able to give. I love the way you asked the question, because I want to be able to enjoy taking also, at the right times and for the right reasons.

    • Shirley — I know that when you contribute BLUSH to the little box, it will be well worn and dog-eared in no time! I resonate strongly with your observation about taking at the right time, for the right reason 🙂

  17. Oh I love this idea and actually saw one in Virginia a few months ago! Such a sweet and lovely concept. I would love to start one in my own neighborhood. As for my relationship give and take,
    I’m generally a giver though there are times when I’m stressed and need comfort, that I become a bit of taker. I always try to make up for it though, to balance it out. 🙂

  18. Laurie, that’s such a wonderful idea! I would love to have one here. I would hope to be a giver, more so than a taker. Somehow I feel more like a sharer, I share my time with someone, they share their memories with me. I share my tomatoes, they share their okra. I share my problems, they share their advice. I share my day, they share their experience. Surely in the long run we both benefit.

  19. Lovely that you found a place that treats you this well! The give & take box is one great idea that helps knit the community together. Personally I find it a lot easier to give than take but making some progress.

  20. The Little Free Libraries are also popping up in my neighborhood. I tend to look more than take–but whenever I take a book, I try to remember to replenish it with another book the next time that I go for a walk.

  21. These small take-a-book, leave a book stations are a God-send for many, much as the red box is for DVDs. It will bring additional reading opportunities for those who are not fortunate to have a library nearby. I have always believed in the give and take, and throughout life it keeps the status quo at even keel. A very giving person usually gets the short end, much as a taker is geared (sadly) to operate in that one direction. Life as a whole is rightly a game of give and take.

  22. I have a feeling I’d be very at home in Boise, too! I’m so glad you’re thrilled with your move. A blogging friend in the Chicago suburbs shared about these little “pop up” lending libraries and I’d never seen them before. I think they’re just a wonderful idea! 🙂

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