For years I have dreamed of opening a tool library.
It would be just exactly what it sounds like: a place where you can check out and return tools instead of books.
There are dozens of such tool libraries making often expensive tools available to their communities across the country. Here's some basic details on the idea.
Here in Abilene, we do have a library operating just east of Pine Street from us. The Interested Citizens of Abilene North (I-CAN) have a tool shed at their headquarters on Mesquite where neighbors from the Carver and Stevenson neighborhoods can check out tools for landscaping and other maintenance needs around their homes. I'm proud to have something like this in our town.
Last week, while I was leaving Orange Street to run a few errands, I noticed a neighbor at the corner of my block, outside about start mowing his yard. He was yanking away at the pull cord over and over right as I turned the corner. While he and his family have lived across the street for a few months now, we have never been able to connect. I have left little postcards on their door about goings-on in the neighborhood and mailed newsletters to their address, but they have never come to anything.
Other people were waiting for me, so I went about my errands. When I came back home to my block, though, I noticed my neighbors' johnsongrass and dandelions were just as high as they were before. Apparently, he never got his mower started.
A fleeting thought sparked between my ears: if only I was running a tool library, I could check out a mower to him!
Or--I realized shamefully late--I could simply let him borrow ours.
I made myself walk up to the door and knock. From the other side, I could hear Spanish-speaking voices. "Alguien toca a la puerta," I heard. Three people stood at the door when it opened, including the man I'd see attempting to mow. We had a halted conversation where I spoke Spanish for them while they tried to speak English for me. I was starting to get my point across: I was a neighbor who had a mower they could borrow. There was only one problem. I had no idea how to say "lawnmower" in Spanish.
"Tengo otra...otra máquin ue usted puede usar." I offered him a "machine" to use instead. Incredibly, within the context of the conversation, he knew what I meant. He came over to borrow said machine, had his yard cut and it returned with the fuel topped off just a couple hours later.
I still hold on to the dream of having a tool library someday. But this time, it wasn't really necessary.
At the end of the day, I had two takeaways from the encounter.
First, there are times, like with my Spanish vocabulary, that you can make do with what you've got, even if it's not the best.
Then in the other times, when what you have doesn't cut it (see what I did there?), and there's not a programmatic resource around to help, there's simply nothing better than a neighbor.