Library Strangers

During the school year, I'm usually at the library 3 to 4 nights every week. As I'm here, I can't help but notice the same strangers who also have a regular library habit. There's the fellow tired-looking nontraditional students with their books and laptops spread out. There's the same group of retirees hunched in their computer lab seats as they rhythmically click and scroll through Facebook and Gmail and YouTube. Or the harmless homeless guys who curl up in quiet corners, reading novels while they wait for their phones to charge on the complimentary power outlets.

But my favorite library stranger is a middle-aged woman I first noticed 4 to 5 weeks ago.

She's never alone.

There's a tutor (or a friend?) with her. And she's learning how to read and speak English. They read library books together, and they listen to audio clips too. And then the tutor/friend will check for her understanding while they have English-only conversations about what they've learned. The woman is always shy and timid when she answers, but she laughs and smiles this great big smile when her friend tells her how good she's doing.

And you know what? The friend isn't just being nice. The woman really is getting so stinking good! It's inspiring to see the level of effort and discipline she's been putting into her English studies.

She's not ready for the big time yet. Her English is still broken to the point where an impatient person would probably give her a hard time. But for real, she is *light-years* beyond where she was this time a month ago. And even though I'm just a guy who's been eavesdropping on her this whole time, I feel privileged catching a glimpse into this complete stranger's life as she accomplishes this incredible goal.