The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady
For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. Gal 2:8 NIV
I may join the carnival. I’d make more money and have more customers. I used to go book signings and act like a refined author. I think people thought I was a carnie because they’d walk right by, deliberately avoiding eye contact. One day, I decided that if people were going to treat me like a carnie, I was going to act like one. When I started using carnival techniques to entice people to stop at my table, I started selling books.
“Step right up,” I sometimes say. “You know you want to. What you are looking for is sitting right on this table.”
Other times, when someone gets within earshot, I say, “I’m so happy you came to this book store just to meet me. I’m Cheryle Touchton and I’d love to sign a book for you today.”
If people pass me, I say, “You just missed the best book in the store.”
Most people are good sports. They grin, walk over, and flip through the books. I begin my commercial. Today, one man said, “You’ve got to get over your shyness.”
To the ones who look confused, I say something like, “I wasn’t selling books acting like an author so I decided to try my hand at acting like a carnie.” I’ve wondered if my success using those techniques means I’d be a better carnie than author. But alas, God hasn’t called me to the carnival so I’ll just keep on pretending to be a carnie in book stores.
Today’s book signing was 4 hours long. It was Friday in a Christian book store, which didn’t bode well for selling books or being entertained. 4 hours is a long time to sit lonely, bored, and feeling rejected.
When I got there, they put me in the back in the Café. I wasn’t happy because the course, Book Singing 101, teaches to always sit in the front of the store.
As usual, I don’t know what is best for me but God does. I had a delightful afternoon.
Let me start by saying I sold 7 books, which is impressive for a Friday in Christian book store. That means I made about $11, which works out to a little less than $3 an hour. Admittedly, It is a hard way to make a living… especially, when you spend $6 in the café.
The café is where people go when they want to snack, reflect on life, listen to Christian music, read, or calm down. From the time I got there, God sent one ministry encounter after another. At several points during the day, I had multiple conversations going on at one time.
A grieving and lonely widow sat there for 3 hours. I suspect she comes in often just to be around people. She sat in silence reading until I engaged her in conversation. We talked off and on as she sat there. It took some work but little by little, she revealed the reasons behind her frozen look of sadness. As she shared, her face relaxed. She was disappointed with both of her adult sons, was selling the house she’d spent her life in, and was regretting not being nicer to her husband when he was alive.
“He was a good guy,” she said. “Why did I fuss about so many things that didn’t matter?” The sad thing about the conversation was that she had faithfully attended the same Baptist Sunday School class every Sunday without telling a soul how disappointed she was with life. Others in café engaged, spoke scripture to her, talked about grace, and got her phone number. She bought my book and thanked me when she left.
A man wore a troubled look of shock as he plopped down with his latte’. He sat alone sipping and staring until I talked to him. As his story poured out, I understood his horror. He’d been in town for 4 months, dealing with a brutal mass shooting. His former brother-in-law had murdered 4 people, including his former wife and the police officer trying to rescue them. His daughter was a target in the incident but had changed her mind at the last minute and hadn’t been at the place where the shooting took place. His daughter’s younger sister was shot and had spent months in the hospital. She’d lost the baby she was carrying. Family dynamics had grown bitter as people responded differently to the uncle, who was in jail, and arguments over the family business arose. I shared our family’s murder story and what I’d learned about forgiveness. I saw him relax as he realized that forgiveness was for him and not for the people who obviously didn’t deserve his forgiveness.
The dramatic stories continued as the afternoon progressed and people sought refuge in this Christian café. I spent time with a mother who’d recently lost her 21 year old son, a recovering drug addict, and an older man who was dating for the first time, 8 years after his wife died. As I left, I asked the owner if I could spend a day there on every missionary journey in the future. He agreed. Today, I got to do my work in an air-conditioned building, listening to Christian music, sipping diet cokes, and selling books. What a glorious afternoon. I guess I won’t join the carnival after all.
Cheryle M. Touchton is the Director of Pocket Full of Change Ministries. For more information or to schedule a speaker for an event, go to www.pocketfullofchange.org or call Gail Golden at 904 316-5462.
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