Remains of the cathedral at Lisbon Remains of Lisbon Cathedral
I love old books as much for where they’ve been as what they contain. For example, I was recently looking at a little volume of prayers written by Robert Louis Stevenson that I picked up amongst a box of other books at an SPCK book sale in Cowan Tennessee (a little town close to Sewanee where the SPCK warehouse is). Inside the book I found this dedication, which made me pause to reflect a moment:

“For my good friend and faithful rector, Edgar T. Fennell, this little book is presented, because I love it, and he and I so often like the same things.”

I know nothing else about this priest–none of the other books in the box were formerly his it seems, and at any rate, the dedication was dated 1943, so one doubts there are a great many folks still active who might know of him or his story. And yet, there is a beauty and a truth to the status of this dedication–from it I learn that this man, a servant of God, made an impact in someone’s life, that he was a friend to at least one person, and that that friend thought he would appreciate a small collection of poems by Robert Louis Stevenson.

I’m sure, in our moments of weakness we all allow delusions of grandeur to enter our minds–what difference might I make, what minstrels might weave tales of my exploits–I know these sorts of ideas come all too often to my mind. And yet, how many of us, even those giants of the world stage, can be said to have truly impacted anyone in a deep way? Celebrity, fame, fortune–all these are fleeting–and, in the end, I think it is far better to be remembered in ways such as this, in the dedication of a friend on the inside cover of a worn book–for it is the small things we do that really matter.

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