The sun was just setting over the stores on the opposite side of the street when the old fashion bell rung announcing the arrival of a patron to the tiny shop. The owner, who was meticulously keeping watch of the time till closing, sat at his desk and could not clearly identify the shopper. The late afternoon sun was shining brightly into his eyes. Before he could even make out who it was, a sharp voice echoed throughout the store.
“Yes, I am here to inquirer about God,” the voice said. It was a woman’s voice but not like one he had ever heard. It was high pitched and had undertones of a snobbish personality mixed with an essence of cheap perfume. It was certainly not a person one would desire to engage in the street, restaurant, or store; yet, the shopkeeper was going to have to welcome his guest.
Taken aback by the woman’s question, the meticulous shopkeeper stammered for a moment wondering why anyone would enter his shop inquiring about God. His was not an establishment that would have anything to do with theological endeavors into the omnipotent mind that is God. There were no indications that he offered religious supplies, trinkets, or anything that had the remote possibility of being godly. He sold plain and simple goods. Just goods.
“Welcome Madame,” he said. “I am sorry but I do not understand what exactly it is you are pursuing. We do not have anything here that would be clear and helpful to someone seeking to know more about the Almighty.”
By this point the woman was clearly visible and he understood the peculiar voice for it came from a rather peculiar looking woman.
Dressed mostly in thick furs of differing previous creatures, the woman stood easily six feet tall and topped her height with a mighty hat. He could have sworn he saw something moving in her hat, perhaps one of the many creatures she was wearing was not yet dead, but he kept that to himself. The woman, in turn, who extended her nose towards the troposphere, looked down on him from the very rim of her glasses. She was not expecting anything spectacular, but she never did expect anything spectacular, and her conclusion was right. Staring back was a short man, plumb all around to the point he could be dressed up like a Christmas pudding and someone might dig a spoon into him! He had a quite disposition, quite the opposite of his patron in every way.
“Well,” said the woman, “I was explicitly told to come to this store, on this day, at this hour to inquirer about God.”
“I am sorry Madame,” he said with a hint of disbelief “but I do not know why someone would think of sending you here. This shop only has basic home goods but might I ask you who sent you?”
The woman was not pleased about the man’s tone of voice. She was not used to being questioned or needing to explain herself to anyone.
“That is none of your concern,” her haughtiness almost knocked over the man.
It became suddenly still in the room. Neither said anything to the other. The woman stared off in the distance and the shopkeeper kept his position unsure how to help. The quietness was eerie and they both felt it.
“Well, certainly there is something in here about God?” she said and began to rummage through the card stand next to the register.
She made a loud humph and snort while picking through the old card set.
“Madame,” he said again “apparently this means a great deal to and I would really like to help. It meant enough for you to come in here seek an answer and the only way I can help you is if you let me. Please, who told you to come here?”
The woman looked the little man over once more and with a dismissive tone said, “Well, I do not know who exactly who told me to come here.”
“You mean you did not know the person.”
“No, I mean it was not a person,” she snapped back. “It was more of a voice saying to come to this store today and inquire about God.”
The man gave a startled look that began to morph into look of disbelief. The woman noticed immediately and promptly retorted, “I am not crazy. I heard a voice explicitly say I was to come to this place. So, I am here and you should have the answer.”
“Madame, I believe you,” he said with an assuring smile. “Perhaps, we both need to listen and see if we hear the voice saying something else, like you have the wrong store, or wrong day.”
“Sir, never in my life have I heard a mysterious voices proclaiming commands. Nor, do I know anyone else who ever experienced such a phenomenon. I highly doubt we will hear the voice proclaim anything to us. We best get under way and discover why it is I was sent.”
Despite the woman’s thinking the man still had reserved feelings concerning this woman’s lucidity. However, as proprietor he decided the old adage is best, the customer is always right. “Certainly, Madame. Let us begin.”
An hour or two had passed. The sun had set behind the buildings and darkness was descending outside. The two had rummaged through every shelf, bin, basket, cabinet, and even noised around the shopkeeper’s back room. Not a single item in the entire store spoke to or about God.
“Well, I am boggled,” the shopkeeper said.
“How very peculiar, the voice was clear about coming here and inquirer about God.”
“Madame,” said the man “I know a little about God. I work hard. I pay my bills. I try to help people when I can but other than that I cannot help nor do I think anything in my store can help you.”
It was at that moment that the shop bell sprang to life once again. The shopkeeper knew by a quick glance who it was that entered the store and headed off to the back room. The woman turned her head to look down for her lofty heights and at first saw nothing. Shocked that she did not see someone she looked further down, removing her nose from the clouds. She was surprised to see staring right below her, handling and petting her mink, a child. Disgust forced her to brush the child away and abruptly scold the child.
“You should not touch other people’s belongings.” The child looked stricken. Never before had she encountered anyone so harsh in the shop. She backed away and apologized for her mistake.
Seconds later the shopkeeper returned with a box. “Here you go Miss Maddie. I hope it helps.”
“Thank you,” the young girl replied and left the store.
“Well Madame, did you find God while I was away?”
“I am afraid not. Certainly this was a fool’s errand. I should be on my way.”
“I am sorry I could not be of more assistance. Perhaps you will find what you are looking for elsewhere?”
The woman snuffed at the shopkeeper’s comment and turned towards the door. “By the way, why was that child in here?”
“Oh, Miss Maddie, now that is a sad story. Her little brother died two years ago during the great winter storm. Her little heart was broken along with her parents. You see they did not have a lot, actually they had nothing, and they could not pay the bills. Well, long story short they lost their home and had to sleep in the car. You remember how cold it got, that was the same time they were living in their car. That night the cold got the little babe and he passed away. Such a shame. Nobody knew they were homeless but at the same time nobody cared to ask how they were.
After the boy died the neighborhood stepped up to help. They now have a place to live and are back on their feet. Well, as much as they can be.
“The mother was in such bad shape they thought they were going to lose her to grief but then Miss Maddie had an idea. She started collecting food items for people in need. She took it on herself to create a food pantry. She went around, house to house asking for canned food items for her pantry. She said she was collecting for Stephen’s Basket, that was her brother name, Stephen. At first people thought they were being nice and wanted to help make the child feel better but before you knew it she filled her home with canned food.
“The mother was shocked to see the outpouring of compassion and realized she had a purpose in what her little girl discovered. She was called to help the least, even though she too was one of them.
“Today, Miss Maddie is still collecting and everybody is helping out. Miss Maddie, her mom and dad, and her brother mean a great deal to this neighborhood.” The shopkeeper concluded his story and wiped a tear from the corner of his eye.
The woman looked down on him and said, “Well, good for her but it did not answer my inquiry. Have a pleasant evening.” And with that she turned with her nose towards the sky and left.
The shopkeeper stared after her for a moment and then heard a familiar voice say, “Don’t worry, she will be back.”