The Community Bookstore

Thursday 25/09/14 11:27 AM - Lm. Jack McArdle ss cc

A Washington DC elergyman has written about a beautiful little town on the Coast of Maine called Kennebunkport. In the centre of Kennebunkport was a very New England-flavoured building that housed a bookstore called 'Kennebookport'. It was a most unusual bookstore. People came and sat on comfortable sofas and read the books without having to buy them. It was an incredible place. One could go there any time of the day or night, and just sit and read the books. If it was a chilly day, the proprietors would build a fire and serve hot cider to their guests. There was Marthe, the cat, always around somewhere to enjoy being among the books and the people. People came from miles around to see the beautiful flowers growing along the steps leading up to Kennebookport. Many stores have signs that say, 'No bare feet', 'No children or pets', and so on, but the sign in front of Kennebookport said. 'Come on in. We love everybody. Welcome! We love icecream cones and kids and small dragons.'

At eleven o'clock one night, the fire sirens were heard by everyone in town. The Bookport burned down and was a total loss. Two days later, the people who had opened the Bookport published a little column in the local paper simply called, 'The Fire.' It began, 'We're licked; we give up; we've poured everything we have into this and now it is gone. These were our feelings as we huddled together in Docks Square last Friday night and watched the flames rip through our building. We clung to Fred and Tom, who have the store downstairs, and wept as the flames licked up the deck and lashed out of the windows of our little tower. But then something began to happen. Ruth made coffee. Chris went to our house to be with our kids. We watched these magnificent volunteer firemen as they fought with their hearts and souls to beat the glames and person after person came in to give us comfort. We were horrified when we heard that Walt had falled from the roof and was seriously injured. At 2 a.m., as we struggled up the ladders into the smoking ruins to try to rescue what we could of our records, and finally stumnled home, although we were dazed and shattered, the seed of something was there and we didn't talk much about giving up. Then Saturday dawned. We went to the Square early and, as if by magic, people began to appear: men, women, teenagers. children, trucks, shovels, brooms, Still in a daze, we saw the twisted wreckage begin to disappear on its way to the dump. Lemonade, sandwiches and cakes apppeared and the work went on. We went home for a short break to find the flowers and the food and the cards and the letters and the gifts that were pouring into our house. People, some of them strangers, came to our door with sympathy. Businessmen came to offer space in their stores if we need it. Chris once again took care of our kids all day. Then back to the Square where our dear Lonnie arrived at 2 o'clocl to go to work and was so thunderstruck he couldn't speak. And the child who set up an offering pot for reflowering the Bookport deck and, perhaps most of all, the loving lady who stopped us in the street to say, 'The soul of our town has died, because the Bookport was our soul.' We wept and wept and wept again may times that day. But these were different tears. And slowly our hearts came alive again. We had come to the brink of despair, but the people of Kenter Coubiac lies seriously injured in the hospital. We know that there will be little money and short rations for us for a long time now, and we know that Martha, our cat, will no longer doze on the gift books or curl up on the invoice box, because she suffocated in the fire. But we have learned that we will not be walking the road alone, because we have seen that Bookport is not ours: it belongs to the people of our town.

So although we don't have any books to advertise for a while, we'll share our pigrimage with you each week in this newspaper space. The fire took all the things we had, it burned hot enough to destroy our books, to turn our flowers into scorched stumps and to kill our cat but that same fire burned bright enough to light up our dream once again and to show us the faces and the hearts of the people of our town, and in that light we are building again.'

This is a simple but apt illustration on making the connection between love of God and lvoe of neighbour.

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