56: My Bookstore Angel

56: My Bookstore Angel

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched by an Angel

My Bookstore Angel

He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

~Psalm 91:15

I had just gotten out of the hospital a couple of days earlier and wasn’t walking well, so when a steady drizzle began, I stopped at a secondhand bookshop. Quickly perusing a shelf, I picked up a hardcover book and dropped into a rocking chair, the large plate-glass window right behind me. I felt weak and tired.

In a minute, a man came out from behind the cash register and approached me. He was short and dressed conventionally in black slacks and a plaid shirt.

“How are you doing?” he asked cheerfully.

“I’ve had better days,” I answered. “I was just in the hospital and want to try to walk every day and build up my strength.”

He nodded as if he understood. “What’s that you’re reading?”

“Oh, I found a Jane Austen novel — Pride and Prejudice.” I realized I should buy something for the privilege of sitting here and looked for the price of the book — $7.50. With looming medical expenses, I didn’t know if I could afford that.

The clerk smiled in response and walked to the shelves, where he began examining the books. A couple of minutes later, he returned, a slender volume in his hand. “I have exactly the book for you,” he said with a great deal of enthusiasm.

He handed the book to me, exchanging it for the novel already in my hand at the same time. Strangely, at that very instant, the sun came out.

He had given me a book of poetry — and I don’t enjoy poetry very much. Still, I saw its price was under $2 and decided to buy it to thank the store for the moment of rest and the refuge from the rain.

“Great,” I said, and paid the clerk.

Later, at home, I looked at a couple of the pages. Really, nothing moved me, but I’d saved a few dollars. When I picked up the book to put it in one of my bookshelves, a printed page fell out. What was this?

It was a copy of the 91st Psalm.

I had tried to pray in the face of my illness. Exhausted, I’d prayed as much as I could during my hospital stay, and I’d prayed in similar terms since I’d gotten home. I wanted to be well again, if God would consent to it. If God, in fact, would step in and heal me with His power.

I read out loud:

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High

Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress:

My God; in him will I trust.

I liked the elegance of the words, and I liked the sentiment very much.

I had read the psalm before, but I didn’t know it that well. I put the book of poetry away, took the page to my “comfort” chair and carefully read through each line of the psalm.

I had prayed, as I said, but I didn’t really know how to pray. This reading of the psalm seemed right. I decided I would say the 91st Psalm out loud to myself every day, three times a day.

When I got up from my chair, I felt a little less exhausted. And I remembered how I’d come by this piece of paper — it had been hidden in a book that the bookstore clerk had said was “exactly the one” for me.

I wondered if he’d known what I’d find, but I doubted it. I figured it was some great coincidence. Or maybe something arranged by God, who had heard my earlier prayers after all.

I began to say the psalm before every meal and then before I went to bed as well.

As the days went by, I said the psalm so often that I had memorized the words, and the words began to change something within me. I didn’t heal all at once, but I started to have hope that I would get well and gained a little more energy.

Although I often still felt afraid, I now had periods when I felt a trust in Him.

On a beautiful fall day, I felt inspired to return to that bookstore store where I’d been given the gift of such encouragement, maybe even transformation. On this occasion, I wasn’t too tired to walk there and beyond, so I stopped in the store when I returned from buying a few groceries. A middle-aged woman stood at the cash register behind the desk and we greeted one another.

“I was hoping to find the gentleman who sold me a slim volume of poems,” I said. “He gave me something I’ve enjoyed more than I thought possible.”

“Gentleman?” she said, seeming puzzled.

“Yes, the clerk, a man.” I gave her a bright smile of assurance.

“I’m sorry, but no one else works here except for me. I’m glad to hear though that you liked the book.” She still seemed a little thrown by my statement but obviously wanted to be polite.

“Maybe he was here before your time — a couple of months ago…”

“No,” she said. “This store is mine, and I’m the only one who works here except for my daughter on Saturdays.”

That, obviously, was impossible.

“He’s kind of short and not overweight but not too slender.” I remembered the clerk very well and I couldn’t understand how the woman didn’t know who I was talking about. “Maybe a friend of yours came in one day to do you a favor.”

“No,” she said. “We’ve never had a man working in here even as a favor. Could you be thinking of some other bookstore?”

She and I looked at one another, both of us knowing that this was the only secondhand bookstore in our neighborhood.

We couldn’t come to any resolution, so I left.

Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation;

There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

That night, I had a dream. In it, I saw the man who’d given me the book as clear as day. He was smiling. “I knew the book would help you,” he said. And I understood that God had sent a helper to answer my prayers.

I’m still, today, continuing to heal, with lots of help both from medical professionals and from alternative healers. I know, at least, that I’m on the right road. And from having little faith before I found my psalm, I have transformed to one who has a certain knowledge.

~Gail Hayden

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