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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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To be a guide

This is a beautiful story that breathes all kinds of life

Read Acts 8:26-40.

The Malmo, Sweden, library has undertaken a creative project that more libraries could afford to discover. I'm ready to recommend its merits to any librarian with an open ear. Instead of checking out books, Malmo's "Living Library" allows patrons to check out, or "borrow," live human beings. They are borrowed for 45-minute conversations in the library's outdoor cafe.

The purpose of the venture is to introduce Malmo library users to real people who may be very different from them in circumstance or background, and who are often victims of prejudice. The goal is to gain fresh insight into our common humanity. Recent examples of people made available "for loan" include a Muslim woman, a quadriplegic, an ex-gang member, a gay man and a Gypsy.

Whenever I see a list of people who bear supposed oddities, I think of all the individuals in Scripture who kept showing up on someone's unkosher list. Gentiles, the blind, the lame, the mentally crazy, dwarfs, women, as well as people who had touched a corpse, lived with a skin disease, or suffered the disgrace of damaged sexual organs—all these individuals would have been good prospects for a living library project in biblical times. They regularly found themselves on the "unacceptable list" of the most religious people. Interestingly, they also happen to be the very ones whom Jesus regularly touched, healed, affirmed and forgave.


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