Dispatches > Quick Takes

Quick Takes

"Quick Takes" Continued...

Issue: "Biblical callings," Dec. 4, 2010

Checking in

Finally after 60 years, the Boston Public Library has its John Stuart Mill autobiography back. An anonymous man returned two books to the library by mail after having checked them out in 1950. The package, containing a book by Henry David Thoreau and another by the 19th-century British political theorist, also contained a letter by the forgetful library user: "While going through the books in my library, I came across these two books that don't belong to me, they belong to you. I must have taken them out when I was a college student in Boston and put them among my other books, and never realized that I failed to return them." With a policy of a 10-cents-per-day fine for late books, the return could have cost the man $4,000. However, an official with the library said they'll drop the fine-they're just happy to have their books back.

Handwritten help

Sometimes a president's words can be prophetic-or, in the case of a note written by President Obama to a financially downtrodden woman, self-prophetic. On Jan. 8, an aide to the president brought in a letter written to him by Jennifer Cline of Monroe, Mich. In the letter, the 28-year-old explained to the president, "I lost my job, my health benefits and my self-worth in a matter of five days." Obama replied to the letter by hand, writing, among other things, that "things will keep getting better." Months later, they did. The woman recently sold the handwritten note to an autograph dealer for $7,000-money she spent to help her and her husband buy a new house.

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