It was dark and cold when I left the house for a few hours of peace.  My husband would put the kids to bed and I would put to rest the stresses on my mind.  A North wind blew across my face as I walked to my car.  I shivered, anticipating the snow that was expected.

As I drove toward Barnes and Noble I wondered if this was the best place for me right now. Would I find any writing books to strengthen my skills?  What would get me past these dull weeks of nothing meaningful expressed on paper?

Barnes and Noble Bookstore seemed to be the go-to place for writers.  So in I went.  Soft lights glowed warmly around the room, offsetting the harsh fluorescents covering the ceiling. I snubbed the café in search of a cheaper seat.  It was fun to worm my way through the books and look at things outside my regular interests.  Then I got down to business with some good writing titles, my notebook and pen.  My phone sat on a stiff wooden chair in front of me as a reminder that I was still needed ‘in my other world.’ I sat reading, taking notes, jotting ideas, working through one book at a time.

Suddenly the sound of paper being scrunched broke my concentration and I was dismayed to discover my foot had absently perched on the second chair and had scuffed one of the books.  As I picked up the book I was horrified to see the crumpled edge of the dust jacket and a smudge on the side. Instinctively I turned to find the price.  Anything would have been too much this week before payday, but this…. It was all too much. Still, I was responsible to pay for what I had damaged, regardless of how I felt.

I continued fretting as I searched out the clerk.  She appeared kindly, even from behind.  Turning toward me with a smile she said, “May I help you?”  I choked out what had happened and she took the book from me.  Dust jackets weren’t sold separately anymore, she guessed, but she would send it in.  She didn’t charge me and assured me the store would not lose money because of it.

I walked away with a thankful heart, scarcely believing that the problem was solved so easily.  I returned empty-handed to my chair with no evidence of wrongdoing anywhere.  What was that? I listened.  The familiar melody “Amazing Grace” was coming from the speakers overhead.  Just then grace felt strange, uncomfortable, like an ill-fitting glove.

I jotted in my notebook about the kindly lady and soon there she was again, working the shelves near me.  We began chatting about broken things and times of grace.  She told me about a trip she had taken with her grandchild, of how sorry the girl felt when she accidently broke a glass object.  The gift shop graciously released them from buying it, like she had done for me. We both had stories of breaking our grandma’s dishes.  I was similarly distraught, but then Grandma had told me not to “cry over spilled milk.” It was her way of teaching me that people were more important than things.

As we talked, I relaxed and began enjoying myself.  At closing time, I thanked the clerk again with a cheerful smile.  The last book had inspired me to write, write, and write!  Determinedly, I walked out the door and into the North wind.  I found my car in the dimly lit parking lot and headed home.  It was still dark and cold, but grace had warmed my heart and I was ready to write all about it.