When I was in college, I took a Shakespeare class. The text was one of those huge editions of the complete works, with lots of notes further expanding its length.The class, if I recall correctly, was MWF, and I’d be on campus all day, lugging that hideous book around. After a few weeks, an idea occurred to me: I actually already owned another, nicer edition of the complete words of Shakespeare, and I was tired of my back hurting, so I carefully ripped out the pages of the one play that we were studying that week and tucked them in my bag. I felt like a new person walking around campus with a few dozen–instead of over a thousand–pages on my back.
A few years later, I worked in the library on a different campus. There, I would never have dreamed of ripping pages out of a book to lighten my load. The books were not mine. I also used the library as a student, but I had no more claim to any book in that library than any other student. I couldn’t re-arrange the books for my convenience or stamp my name in them or underline them. My job was to care for them so everyone could use them. I was a steward, not an owner, of those books.
I taught Relief Society today (this lesson) and as I was pondering how to explain the difference between stewardship and ownership, these contrasting experiences with books came to my mind. Maybe they are no longer relevant in The Kindle Age, but it really made my wonder what life would be like if I treated my bank accounts, my day planner, and my mental energy as if I were their librarian instead of their owner.