Just over a month ago, I happened to pass a weekly second-hand bookstall in town where all books are only £1. I stopped to see if they had a particular book I was interested in reading, not feeling overly optimistic, just checking because I thought of it.
I didn’t see the book that I wanted but asked anyway and the man said that he was pretty sure he’d seen a copy and that he’d keep an eye out for it if I came back the following week.
It’s been a really busy month, so I didn’t even think of the bookstall, let alone have the time to pop in. However, last week I happened again to be passing and so quickly had a look. There on the front row was the book. While handing over my £1, I mentioned to the man how pleased I was to find it and he said
‘Oh it’s you! I was hoping you’d come back. That’s given me a little thrill now. I’ve got a skip in my step! You’ve made my day!’
I couldn’t quite believe it. This guy is clearly not in the business for the money. His reaction (more than getting the book) made my day, too.
Actually mattering to a stranger makes a huge difference when modern life sometimes feels full of anonymity. This guy reminded me of the joy to be found in remembering the small things, in taking the time to notice people.
I don’t often remember my dreams but a few nights ago woke up with a faint memory of a dream in which I can only describe as feeling as though I was known and marked by love, almost like a tattoo or a seal. Marked out to be loved and to love.
As I’ve reflected on that honour and that very tough calling that is there for all of us, I’ve been drawn to the well-known passage in 1 Corinthians 13 that is often read at weddings. Though it is expressed very beautifully and poetically, when summed up it simply says that no matter how gifted you are or what amazing things you do, without love it’s all worthless. It goes even further to say that all that will be left in the end is love. All that will be left of all your efforts and your good deeds and bright ideas will be the love that was behind them.
Recently I saw a social media post that said something like ‘Heaven will be all of the dogs who ever loved you running to meet you at once’. That might not be everyone’s idea of heaven (and I don’t think it is mine) but I understand the sentiment; the unconditional love and the joyful welcome.
In the end we will know the love that has been whispering our name, reflected in beauty around us, in ways that we can’t now imagine. ‘For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.’