Chemistry and Kindness

In 1981 I am 10 years old and crazy about science. I have a chemistry set at home and use it enough that I need to search through catalogues to find refills for the chemicals it came with. When I go to the town library I find a book about chemistry from 1961, The Golden Book of Chemistry.

It is filled with colourful illustrations and clear explanations and has the musty smell of old knowledge. Every time I pick it up I learn something new. After renewing it three times and keeping it two months overdue, I reluctantly bring it back to the library. Before turning it in I try asking the librarian: “Can I please buy this book, I love it so much!” I get only an officious “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” from her. It’s just not possible to get a copy. (Now, however, you simply can just click here and get a PDF copy. Good thing, too, since it’s out of print and because many of the experiments are hugely dangerous libraries and schools ended up destroying them)

I actually ended up doing this one at home – along with another to make ammonia gas

In Grade 7 my biology teacher, Mr. Ellerson, is a huge fan of science writing. He recommends I check out Carl Sagan’s “Broca’s Brain” and when I go to the bookshop I look for it. My small New England town has a good general fiction section, a few science fiction books and a full aisle of Romance novels, but not one non-fiction science book. but the owner says she can order it. I love this idea of ordering books. This means I could have any book in the world whether it’s there or not.

Realizing this I ask my mom at the checkout counter, “Mr. Ellerson also says ‘Asimov on Chemistry’ is excellent. Can we buy it too?”

She declines. “Sorry – books are expensive, we can only afford one.”

I’m disappointed but I understand. As we walk out the door, the owner of the store tells us to come back in two weeks – my book should be there then.

Two weeks later we return. When we walk in the door, the owner reaches under the counter and pulls out a bag and hands it to me. It’s a bit heavier than I expect and when I look in I see that there are two books: Broca’s Brain and Asimov on Chemistry. The owner says “I saw how much you wanted that book so I bought it for you.”

I always knew that books were to be loved, but today I learn that we should share that love with others whenever we can.

9 thoughts on “Chemistry and Kindness

  1. I loved chemistry as a kid too. In eighth grade we had to do experiments for our classmates. I did one where an egg is sucked into a bottle. It’s wonderful that someone saw your need and met it.

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