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  • Writer's picturekqd.

This Is Us...

Dear Community,

Please do not be alarmed. This is not a blog about the popular television series "This is Us" although I would be interested in reading a deep dive into the cultural impact of the show. This is a blog about US - Our Story, Our Community.

Over the past few weeks, I've received so many emails of support, love and suggestions. Some folx have even shared their own awakenings and the many ways they are actively interrupting biases and examining expectations. It's been powerful to read. I've spent a lot of time reflecting on their words and even following up via email. My internal voice says, "Kalima, focus. There's so much work to do - customer service emails, calls, text messages, book orders, pack tote bags, etc." Then I hear, "keeping writing. Connecting with people; receiving their thoughts, sitting with their struggles, reflecting on the moment and responding from the place inside where their words have made a home, IS THE WORK."

A week ago, I sifted through the mail and saw a familiar name. I smiled with curiosity,

carefully opened the card and saw a handwritten letter from Kandasi. My eyes filled with tears. And as I read her words, I literally saw her smile as I remembered the day she, accompanied by her mom, stopped by the bookstore to grab some fresh reads before leaving the country. I thought then and I think now, I really like this human.

Dear Kandasi,

How did you know that one of the things I love most in the world are handwritten notes? How did you know that sending this little bundle of joy would fortify me for yet another 80hr work week? Did you know this act of kindness would be right on time? You must have known because your card is now part of my story. Thank you for thinking of me. Thank you for taking the time to write. Thank you for being you! -kqd.

As days passed and I received more and more cards, I thought to myself..."This is Us..." Our community is one that sends handwritten notes through snail mail. They rage with me (thank you, Alexis), they push me to think, they include a little origami in their letter.

Dear Susan,

I almost kissed this little gem when I saw it. That's how happy I was. My co-workers, Surendra and Abigail were suppose to host an origami teach-in party for one of our "family self-care lunch" dates. We never got around to it. Your piece reminded me of them, how much I love them and am loved by them, and how small, thoughtful gestures can make all the difference. Thank you for sending me something so sweet - thank you for reminding me of community. -kqd.

I've been pretty honest about my journey. I've made mistakes and instead of beating myself up, I've been reminding myself that mistakes mean I'm trying; I'm in the ring.

So many of you have responded with similar words of encouragement. Some have offered suggestions that are totally blowing my mind. As much research as I do, there's so much more out there that I'll never get to without the help of my village.

Dear Beth,

Thank you for spending almost an hour talking to me about your experience as a small business owner. Your first email with suggestions on ways I could do things different and better literally made my heart skip a beat. When I read your offer to talk, I could hardly wait to respond. I shared your email with the community advisory board along with a note saying "I emailed her back with a resounding YES!" And after I accepted your offer to talk, I wrote on my to do list "create a policies" page. I feel less alone after today, Beth. Thank you. -kqd.

I'm not sure if you know, that my paid job is with Silberman School of Social Work. Yes, I work a full-time job in addition to managing the bookstore. I am blessed to work service of a profession that I LOVE and with people whose brilliance and resolve to be on the right side of history, keep me energized and hopeful. I'm a social worker + a bookseller. When those two worlds intersect, I'm overly self-conscious. I want to be good at both; I want to make my social work family proud. Their opinion matters. So, when they support which many have, I'm truly moved.

Dear Martha,

Do you know that I have a thing for well-read, over the top

smart, confident and fiery womxn?

Do you know how much I respect and admire your passion for global equity, equality and justice? More than anything else, I am humbled by your unwavering and almost bulldozer-ish commitment to educating the most anti-racist, culturally humble and curious social workers! And now, here you are making an intentional decision to support my small business with a level of care and love that makes me feel even luckier. Our work together has been rewarding in ways I can't quite capture. Thank you for all that you are to the world, to social work and to me. I'm so happy that you like the bookstore; your opinion matters. -kqd.

There are 100s of messages, dozens of letters from folx who are currently incarcerated and boxes of sweets (thank you to whoever sent cookies from Insomnia Cookies - I indulged and have the extra lovable weight to prove it) that remind me that I am in good company. We have some grumpy folx; they're part of us as well. I'm getting use to their emails and smiling as I respond rather than personalizing. Through it all, I am reminded that THIS IS US. This care is US. This warmth is US. This complex and rich community is US. Thank you for choosing Cafe con Libros. I am so lucky!

love always, kqd.

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Yay! Well you just made my day, too, by including me in this email. I'm so glad we connected. This email gave me a smile to start off my 80+ hour work week. :) I find one of the hardest thing about growing my business is still being able to connect with people—and it sounds like you are doing that amazingly well.

And, the not-so-uplifting grumpy folx get easier to email back. I find most people just want to be heard, and they often don't even expect a that when they do get a thoughtful reply (from a human!!), the can be turned around to "super fans" rather easily. I feel like it's my super power! (not joking)


I’m so moved by this post and the way you engage with your community. Thank you for your fierce authenticity.

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