There was a brilliant mathematics teacher at the high school I attended. As the community was small, his children, who were also very smart, attended the same school.
Aside from what appeared to be their innate abilities in math and physics, I never suspected anything was different.
One day, a couple of friends and I, along with one of the teacher’s sons, went to his house.
I stepped inside the front door and could not believe what I saw.
Every inch of space — from floor to ceiling — was stacked with newspapers and books.
A narrow, barely negotiable path led from the front to the rear of the house.
Flash ahead a few decades and the TLC cable network broadcasts a hit show “Hoarding: Buried Alive.”
Featured on the program is a person whom someone — usually a friend, neighbor or family member — has deemed to be living in deplorable conditions, along with a psychologist and professional junk removers who are hired to remedy the problem.
Many of the shows do, in fact, show people living in a somewhat symbiotic relationship with big, ugly rats and equally disgusting bugs crawling freely throughout the person’s living space.
A recent show featured a lady who “hoarded” teddy bears — soft, adorable, huggable stuffed animals — that filled her home.
The fact that this collection of teddy bears was considered hoarding bothered me more than the programs featuring rats and bugs.
In this case, an appraiser determined some of the bears could be worth as much as $500 at auction.
The poor woman was ultimately “convinced” to rid her home of her hoard.
The question I frequently asked myself — just as an occasional check on reality — is “Am I an ‘extreme collector’ or a true hoarder?”
Bookcases filled with various genres of reading material fill just about every room (the bathroom is spared) in my home.
I worried once when, in the middle of the night, I heard a huge crash. A bookcase in the basement had collapsed, apparently under the weight of one too many books.
After watching the “teddy bear” show, I went searching on the Internet for a word to describe my collection as legitimate, not as a neurosis.
Thanks to the Japanese, there is such a word — Tsundoku — the acquiring of reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them.
Whether A. Edward Newton, author, publisher and avid book collector, was aware of Tsundoku or not, he certainly felt the word’s spirit.
Newton is quoted as saying, “Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching toward infinity ... we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access reassurance.”
Newton is a man after my own heart, as is the pastor at Calvary Moravian Church, located at 948 N. 21st St., Allentown.
The church recently opened a reading room for neighborhood children.
This free reading room, which features more than a thousand books, allows children to keep the books they want, up to two per visit.
“There’s power in children being able to own books they can turn to and enjoy,” Pastor Janel Rice said. “They can learn the process of reading by increasing their own personal library.”
My family will rue the day if television cameras and junk haulers show up at my doorstep and try to “convince” me my treasured books are trash.