There is something about bookstores that I find utterly irresistible.
Cozy and comforting, they serve as a little safe haven that soothes my soul. Enchanting wooden shelves, stacked with a thousand different worlds—characters and stories just waiting to be discovered.
Unwilling to resist, I had allowed myself to be lured into a little second-hand bookstore and promptly lost myself down an aisle. That’s one of the things I like about good books—they act as a little vacation for the mind.
As I was perusing the titles on the shelves, a lady appeared. She looked like she was in her mid 80s and was holding a pink cupcake.
“Isn’t it nice when there is no one to bother you, and you’re left to browse in peace,” she said, with a cheeky grin.
As I continued browsing through books, I could hear the lady engaging the customers, who wandered in and out of her store, with mischievous repartee. I couldn’t help but smile and admire her. What a delightful lady she was.
As I listened to her quick wit and playful banter, I couldn’t help but feel inspired. I mean, I consider myself a friendly person, but when it comes down to it, I rarely go out of my way to engage strangers in conversation.
I couldn’t help but think—just as the shelves of a bookstore are heaving with countless stories and characters, so too are our daily lives.
This woman was clearly a lover of stories, and it was as if she viewed every person who wandered into her store as a novel. Engaging in a little repartee was a way of flicking through the pages of a person’s personality and seeing if there is something that might take her fancy or pique her interest.
Sometimes you can read the back of a book and decide it is not for you. Other books, you can’t wait to get home and devour. Some stories hold you captivated, and you can’t read the pages fast enough, becoming incapable of putting the book down. Some stories you treasure, and keep for a lifetime. Some are a pleasant read, but don’t leave much of an impression and soon get recycled back to a second hand bookstore. And then there are some books that can literally change your life.
Come to think of it—books and people have a lot in common.
Each person has a story, made up of various chapters. Like a book, each person’s life also has a cast—some characters in that book may appear in only one chapter, and some may feature the whole way through the story.
When I read these words by an anonymous author, they sent shivers down my spine:
“Each passer-by is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground with an elaborate passageway to a thousand other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window and dusk.”
That’s the beauty of this life. Whether we know it or not, we’re all more connected than we think. Our lives are intertwined in intricate ways. Just as people appear in our stories, we too appear in other peoples. We may star as an extra, a kind stranger, a leading lady (or gentleman,) or we may play a heroine or a villain.
Just as a person might be responsible for a pivotal moment in our stories, we too may do the same for someone else.
I didn’t leave the bookstore with a book that day, but I did leave with an idea, thanks to the lady with the cupcake.
The books on the shelves sat patiently, waiting for someone curious enough to open them up. Tales of fun and adventure, love and romance, comedy and horror. Stories of fantasy and magic. Historic memoirs and musings. A thousand stories all just waiting to be told.
I walked out of the bookstore feeling inspired to take a leaf out of the old lady’s book. I decided I was going to take the time to really connect with people—to open them up and discover some real stories.
As the great storyteller Road Dahl said, “Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
Author: Laura Forbes
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Flickr/Joshua Kirby