Tag Archives: David Foster Wallace

Cookies and Mental Strength



Most librarians are, by nature, helpful. Librarians tend to gravitate toward this profession because they want to help others find resources and, in the long term, success. Their job is, in some part, to assist others to success. This is a job that, on its good days, delivers a steady stream of small rewards, the kind that come from helping and supporting others.

But even librarians can fall victim to the negative mental habits of feeling sorry for ourselves, resisting necessary change, dwelling on the past, and fretting over things we don’t control. Even jealously or envy can creep in. It’s easy to wonder if the hours spent helping a faculty colleague find the best resources for their research, is time better spent on our own. In his famous address at Kenyon College, David Foster Wallace reminds us of how easy it can be to begin to see others as simply obstacles to our own happiness. 

So, how can library professionals maintain a positive and caring attitude about those we are responsible to serve, even when we’ve fallen victim to negative mental patterns? Well, just gritting your teeth and trying to be polite sometimes has to do the trick, but it’s not a very sustainable way to operate and often it says more about us than it does about others. Sometimes a bit of reflection about our own limitations and imperfections can remind us to cut others some slack and prompt us to slow love and kindness. So,if you’re asking  yourself . . . when do we get to the cookies? Your wait is over! Valerie Cox has written a funny poem that can help us remember that sometimes, the problem isn’t other people . . . it’s us.

The Cookie Thief

    A woman was waiting at an airport one night,
With several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shop,
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.

She was engrossed in her book but happened to see,
That the man beside her as bold as could be,
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag between
Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.

She read, munched cookies, and watched the clock,
As this gutsy “cookie thief” diminished her stock.
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by
Thinking “If I wasn’t so nice, I’d blacken his eye!”

With each cookie she took, he took one too.
And when only one was left she wondered what he’d do.
With a smile on his face and a nervous laugh,
He took the last cookie and broke it in half.

    He offered her half, as he ate the other,
She snatched it from him and thought, “Oh brother,
This guy has some, nerve and he’s also rude,
Why he didn’t even show any gratitude!”

She had never known when she had been so galled,
And sighed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate,
Refusing to look back at the “thieving ingrate.”

She boarded the plane and sank in her seat,
Then sought her book which was almost complete.
As she reached in her baggage she gasped with surprise,
There was her bag of cookies in front of her eyes!

“If mine are here,” she moaned with despair,
“Then the others were his and he tried to share!”
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief!

Valerie Cox, “The Cookie Thief” in Chicken Soup for the Soul

Photo Credit: Lloyd Morgan