Bookstore Love – January 4, 2014

This lovely scene took place a day or two before New Year’s Day, but this is the first chance I’ve had to write it down. It’s a perfect story for a new start, and what you can’t see here electronically is that every time I tell the story aloud, I start to choke up.

I was working at a cash register at the bookstore, which is very unusual for me. Let’s just say it’s not my forte, but business was slammin’ — as it was throughout the holidays, you book lovers will be happy to hear. A woman in her 40s stepped up, talking animatedly to a young man. Evidently, from the conversation I was eavesdropping on, he was from Africa, and his English wasn’t particularly good. As she spoke to him, he placed a beautiful hardcover H. P. Lovecraft collection on the counter.

“Just reading this will help your language skills,” she said excitedly.

He smiled at her and nodded.

“And you’ll find that reading in a new language will help your vocabulary. You’ll feel more at ease speaking to people.”

He smiled some more.”Yes, yes,” he smiled.

“You know, reading is a gift,” she said to him warmly, as she handed me her credit card. “And now remember, you promised me that one day, you’ll buy a book for someone, too.”

“Yes, I will,” he said. “Thank you.”

And with that, she shook his hand and walked away.

Now everybody’s smiling, except for me, of course, because I’m crying.

Reading is a gift.

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“Toots” – November 26

You all know that every once in a while I like to share a story, just something that happened during my day. So here’s one from this morning about a delightful woman who couldn’t have appeared at a more auspicious time…

My bookstore is on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, and it is not unusual in
this neighborhood to have a conversation with a customer and find that they are
a Holocaust survivor. Today I met Hannah, also known as “Toots,” a happy,
delightful lady well into her 80s who came in to get a little help with her
Nook. She told me she had just gone to see the movie “The Book Thief,” and now
wanted to read the book. She also told me that she had actually witnessed the
burning of the books in Germany during World War II.

I loved Toots. And I was left with two thoughts. First, who could ever imagine
that she would live to see both the burning of our words and masterpieces, but
also a day when she would be reading whatever she wished on a tiny electronic
device (and she had a very fine reading list!)? But mostly, as always, I am
amazed at the bravery of ordinary people. They are the ones who save our souls.
Thank you, Toots. You just sort of made my Thanksgiving.

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Thankful – November 24

I race-walked home from work as fast as I could tonight — the weather had finally turned, and it was 26 degrees with a wicked wind. I was eager to get home, cozy up, and make a meat loaf, so dropped by my local grocery store for some supplies. At the checkout there was a display with tear-off tickets for $1, $3, or $5. Now you know I try to not make good deeds about money. But when I saw these options I couldn’t resist. It all fell into place: bitter cold, Thanksgiving, and this little ticket, which advised me that if I just handed it over to the cashier, I would feed five people through a New York food bank. For one dollar.

Please find your ticket to help some way this week of thanks, won’t you?

Show your gratitude.

Check-out hunger

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‘Tis the season! — November 8

Well, ONE GOOD DEED readers and followers, I think we know what’s going on here, don’t we!

(And for all of you who have never known the delightment of the Cranberry Surprise Pie, see the November 28, 2010 post of this blog). Adding a little Christmas music in the background didn’t hurt, either.


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Wrap Session — October 8

OK, so you may say this isn’t much of a good deed, but I think it is. Something keeps happening in the store that really bugs me (what doesn’t?), and I decided to lead a little one-chick brigade.

We all man/woman the gift wrapping station at the front of the bookstore — whoever is free at the moment is on tap. I love to wrap, and as you know, we occasionally even get tips. But here’s what’s beginning to get under my skin…

A woman — almost always a woman — will lay down the things she wants wrapped and say, “It’s for a five-year-old boy.” And a lot of times it’s obvious, because people are still buying Legos and trucks for boys, princess stuff and glitter for girls. Now where this all starts in the growing-up process, I can’t say. But it reminds me a lot of the notion that we’re all born without hate, that hate is learned.

So now when someone says, “It needs to be wrapped for a seven-year-old little girl,” I always reply, with a big smile, “I’m happy to report that we don’t have gender-specific wrapping paper.”

So there. It’s a step in the right direction — I know it is.

Just make it pretty.

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Y’all know I love a lemonade stand, and never fail to stop for a tiny entrepreneur! This is the second one of the season I’ve stopped at on the steamy streets of Manhattan this year, and both of them have been kids at work for others, both raising money for causes they understand: other kids and animals in trouble. 


Thanks, kids.


Lend a hand — even a tiny one.



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How It Should Go – June 29

This is the way a day should go. Or at least a little part of it.

We gift wrap for free at my bookstore, and in this “added value” world, it’s a very popular perk. So I was touched when a little old lady fumbled around for two crumpled singles to give me when I finished wrapping her books and having a nice chat. After one round of “Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly,” I pocketed it. Bookselling is not a high-paying job, and she was happy to offer it.

As I left work later on, I spied my old friend, Thomas, across the street. Those of you have followed this blog (see August 18, 2010 post), or read ONE GOOD DEED, the book, will remember him as a neighborhood regular, part-homeless, all-deep, gorgeous baritone. He has grown older and thinner in the last couple of years, rarely sings, and I haven’t seen him all winter long. Of course I feared the worst. But there he was now, new striped shirt, summer straw hat, greeting folks he knows from his seat outside the drug store. Truth is, I had to stand in line to say hi.

I kissed him. I hugged him. Of course — what else? — I gave him the two dollars.

It ain’t much. But it’s the way the world should go.

Give and take.

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Memorial – May 27

As we remember and thank all the military today, droves of Americans also head off to their geranium-ready farm stands and garden centers to prepare and visit the graves of their loved ones. Annuals are planted, and whispered messages and more than a few tears are left at the cemeteries, too. You all may remember that my ONE GOOD DEED journey started on a day where I tended my parents gravesite, and I was there this weekend again, sending telepathic words of love and prayers asking for help as I move along on this earthly path. I also made two very sad condolence visits, one for one of the Cranberry Surprise Pie girls, as OGD readers will remember them. And then, to top off my rainy few days, I stopped by my young cousin’s new store in our tiny village. She is also named Erin, and it was grand to see something new and shiny and exciting after these bittersweet episodes. Life goes up and down and up again. Wouldn’t be worth it any other way.

Memories make the life.

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It Had to Be Said – April 11

You know I like to keep an eye on what’s happening in the neighborhood, whether it’s a lemonade stand or a Halloween dog costume contest in the local park. Well, now there’s talk of building a waste station right next to that park on the river, and local residents are up in arms. I’m pretty sure I’m on their side, though I should read up on it a little more — I am worried about the playgrounds nearby, for example. 

In either case, I’m willing to sign a petition to look into the matter further, so I did, at the bus stop this morning. But then I had to say this to the lady with the clipboard:

“I’m sorry, but as environmentalists it just seems to me you could be signing one line on a piece of paper, rather than a heavy, shiny, four-color sheet for every single person.”

Guy next to me sniggers. Petition lady is flummoxed. As she should be.


Practice what you preach.



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Confused – April 1

This weekend I went to my hometown library, the one where I borrowed every Nancy Drew book, and when I had finished those, lit into the less satisfying Hardy Boys and Cherry Ames series. I had recently discovered my library didn’t own a copy of ONE GOOD DEED. I suffered through a range of emotions, of course, chief among them miffed and pained. So I drove over and gifted them one, inscribing it “A Devoted Cardholder Since 1962.”

There’s a tiny part of my heart that worries that this was shameless self-promotion. But I had noticed that a couple of the surrounding towns had copies of my book, and that they were often checked out. So…gifting this was a good deed, right?

Sharing is good.

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