Grand Rapids Public Library incites learning between people with Human Library

This past Saturday, the Grand Rapids Public Library filled its shelves with “human books” as they hosted the first Human Library. Participants could arrive and book an interview with people who are commonly misunderstood or stereotyped; anyone from refugees to people of faith and those with physical disabilities.

I heard the stories of two such “books”: Fred Stella, an outreach minister for West Michigan Hindu Temple, and Cara and Jacquie, a same-sex couple who have been together for 15 years.

Fred is a Hindu convert who began exploring Hinduism at the age of 15 and fully embraced the religion 15 years later. Now he is an ordained Pracharak (outreach minister) and member of the executive council of the Hindu American Foundation.

Cara and Jacquie first met at a neighborhood cookie party 15 years ago and have been together ever since.

They say that the secret for staying together so long is respect and communication, and also the little things. Jacquie said she likes to be surprised every now and then and that it’s the little things that matter in the long run.

Both Fred and Cara have connections to Calvin. Fred, who hosts visits to the temple, was pleased to tell me that he is always impressed with Calvin students when they visit.

Cara has visited Calvin many times to speak to classes, but she mainly works with CRC congregations to make them more inclusive for the LGBT community. “Silence is unacceptable,” Cara said, speaking of many churches’ policy of ignoring many of their LGBT members, so she works to change this. She said that she has hope when she meets Calvin students.

When asked why they participate in the Human Library, Cara responded that she doesn’t want others to feel isolated and alone, as she did when embracing herself; she wants to spread a message of hope.

The library considered the event an overwhelming success and hopes to hold similar events in the future.