On donating books to the Salvation Army

salvationResearch suggests people who donate to charity feel happier and enjoy better overall health than those who don’t. I’m not exactly sure how that works on a physiologically level, but I do believe we have a responsibility to help those less fortunate than ourselves. On a grand scale, donating books is probably less impactful than, say, volunteering in a soup kitchen. Still, I believe it creates an opportunity to enjoy some good karma down the road.

And so yesterday after work I drove to the Salvation Army on South MacDill Avenue in the Palma Ceia neighborhood of South Tampa to donate some books. Easing my car up to the curb, I saw a large moving van with the slogan “Doing the most good” emblazoned on its side. I don’t think their claim is overstated: in 2013 alone, the Salvation Army provided some kind of assistance to more than 30 million people.

Lugging my box of old chestnuts into the store and passing them off to a man cloaked in his signature red vest took less than a minute. There were maybe 20 books in all, and upon leaving the store I was struck by the fear that I’d just tossed my precious pearls into a chasm of charitable nothingness. How will I know if my meager contribution will be of value? Will my books just collect dust on the shelf? And exactly how is a book supposed to help someone in need?

And then it hit me: a book may not be a hot meal or a warm coat or a roof over someone’s head, but placed in just the right hands, a book can save a life.

Here’s to the unknown stranger whose burden is lessened, if even for a moment, by the pages contained therein.

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