Copenhagen is amongst many other things the home for an organisation called “Human Library” (“Menneskebiblioteket”).
It is an organisation that is aiming at overcoming stereotypes of marginalised people, through personal meetings. At its events, one can talk to its open “books”— that people who might be someone who has a mental health issue, look unusual, have experienced traumatic events… and they volunteer to share their perspective, their experiences, with others. It is a safe space to meet people one usually does not talk to, to ask questions what one usually wouldn’t not talk about. Having a face, a person to talk to. Talking with them, not about, to face the stereotypes we have, overcome them.
I had known about it since quite a long time, but for all this time not the opportunity to pay it a visit. Now I was back in the Öresund region, and I had read that they have an Open Reading Garden in summer every second Sunday in Copenhagen. So I decided to go there on one sunny Sunday. Said, done.
I was not interested in one specific in one specific person or topic, I wanted to see how it works in general, how the atmosphere is, how people speak. Therefore, when I first came there and was asked which “book” I wanted to “read”, it took me quite a while to choose. I admit, I was also unsure whether I would like to hear about all the topics. Not knowing how to behave, react, what to ask.
I then decided for the “book” about autism, and spoke with the man about wanting to fit in, belonging to a group.
Later, I spoke to a second person, a woman being raised by an alcoholic father, and we talked about family a lot.
And finally, to a young woman who is an incest survivor, having been sexually abused by her (step)father. The previous stories were interesting, and I got to learn about what difficulties these people had faced in their lives. But this one felt different, because I felt something. It was not her story itself that impressed me the most, but her personality and the messages she gave me.
That despite what happened to her over years of her childhood and Youth, her main thoughts concern to protect others from being harmed. Keeping her family from pain. She has a lot of empathy and did not only tell her story, but also listened to my thoughts. We talked about feeling guilty when doing good, and enjoying life. We talked about showing emotions and crying, and had tears in our eyes at the end.
Usually, one has 30 minutes for “borrowing” a book for a conversation. We got a bit more time, luckily. And when I said good bye, she asked me whether I wanted a hug — I gladly took it. I hope to always remember her.