"For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (From 1 Samuel 16:7)
I wrote this short story for children three years ago. It's about not judging people by their outward appearance. Now, I'm pasting the entire store as a blog entry, in hopes of spreading the message. Go here to download: Children's Stories
Remy's New Friend
"What's that you say?" the man in the frumpy brown sweater asked curiously.
Remy turned around hesitantly. She hadn't meant for anyone to hear her mumbling. She stared blankly at the man until he asked again, "What did you say?"
Remy knew better than to talk to strangers. But her mother smiled and nodded at her from the corner of the bookstore to let her know it was okay. "I was just thinking out loud," Remy said.
"Oh, yes, yes. Very good. Thinking is important," replied the man. "But what did you say?" There was concern in the man's voice, but it was also very gentle. He had a nice smile, and he stood patiently waiting for the girl's answer as she inspected him.
The man had a funny accent. His pants were a bit too short, revealing mismatched socks, and he wore a big, furry sweater, although it was almost July. He had funny hair, parted too far over on one side, and a few pieces fell down into his eyes which were framed by thick, dark-rimmed glasses. But the eyes behind those glasses were remarkably kind-looking.
Remy replied to the man. "I was just thinking, this looks boring," she said, pointing to a thick, dusty book on the shelf in front of her.
"Oh, on the contrary, my dear," he said. "This story is spectacular! It's full of adventure and romance and surprise twists. You can't judge a book by its cover, you know. Have you ever heard that before?"
"Yeah, but this book is very long," she dismissed. "And there aren't very many pictures." Remy had taken the book from the shelf and thumbed through it quickly. Remy was a great reader, but she still didn't think a book that long was right for her.
"Well, it's up to you," the man said. "But if you decide you want to try it, I'll let you have it for half price."
Realizing he was the owner of the store, Remy said, "Thank you, sir. Maybe next time." The ten-year-old had very nice manners.
She put the book on the shelf and bounded back to her mother who had just finished her newspaper and coffee. They held hands as they walked out the door, and Remy asked, "Mama, do you know that man?"
"Oh, yes!" Mrs. Lawrence replied. "I've known him for quite some time. He's owned the bookstore since I was little. He's a very smart man. And very kind. His name is Mr. Wilhelm."
"He did seem kind, but I'm not sure about smart. His socks didn't match," Remy said. "And he talks funny."
"Never mind that, sweetie," said Mama. "Mr. Wilhelm is a friend of mine, and I think you might enjoy getting to know him, too." Remy looked confused. She twirled her red hair around her finger while she walked.
Her mother continued. "When I was about your age, maybe a little older, my mother brought me to Mr. Wilhelm's store every week. He never minded that we only bought something every once in a while. He was happy to let me sit in the corner and read his books for as long as I wanted. He encouraged me to read all kinds of books. Then he encouraged me to write stories of my own. And now that my book has been published, Mr. Wilhelm is going to sell it in his store. It's my dream come true!"
Remy had listened for months to her mother talk about the book she had written, but she had never heard her sound this excited about it.
The pair continued to chat happily as they walked home. They hadn't gone very far, however, when Mrs. Lawrence exclaimed, "Oh, no! I forgot to pay for my coffee at the bookstore!"
"Can't you pay for it next time, Mama?" Remy asked.
"Well, I'll just feel better if I take care of it now," her mother answered.
They walked quickly back to the store, and while Mrs. Lawrence paid the cashier, Mr. Wilhelm walked to the shelf where he and Remy had talked earlier. He pulled down the old, thick book- the one without very many pictures- and brought it to Remy.
"This is for you. I decided you should borrow it. If you want to, that is." Mr. Wilhelm said.
Remy was again surprised by the old man. "Oh, um, okay," she stammered. "Thank you."
"You're very welcome," he said. "But you have to tell me what you think of it when you bring it back."
Before Remy could say anything else, Mr. Wilhelm had turned to go help a customer. "See you soon!" he called over his shoulder.
After dinner that evening, Remy was bored. "There's nothing to do!" she complained to her father. School was out for the summer, so there was no homework to be done. She had finished her chores. Her little sister was already in bed, so she had no one to play with.
"You can always read a book," her father answered. Then Remy remembered the big blue-covered book Mr. Wilhelm had loaned her.
"Why not?" she thought to herself.
Remy curled up with her cat Missy in the big comfy armchair in the living room, cracked open the book, and began to read.
It started out a little slow. There were long descriptions of the setting and detailed histories of the characters. But by the second chapter, Remy found herself enthralled with the story! There were pirates and hidden passageways, princesses and secret identities, buried treasure, and even a mummy!! Two hours later, her mom came in to say, "I think you should be getting to bed now, Remy." Remy had not realized it was so late.
The next morning she reached for the book on the nightstand and read a whole chapter before she even got out of bed. She read during breakfast, she read in the car on the way to the grocery store, and she read in the afternoon instead of watching her favorite show on TV. She even read in the bathtub! She read any time she could, and by the next evening she had finished the book.
Remy was almost sad the story was over. "That was a really, really good book!" she told her mom.
"I'm glad you liked it!" Mama answered. "Mr. Wilhelm will be glad too."
Remy quieted down I bit. "He wants me to tell him all about it," Remy said. "But I'm not sure I want to."
"But, why?" her mother asked kindly.
"I don't really know him, and he looks a little...you know....strange. He really does seem nice, Mama, but he sounds funny, and he's really old!"
"I think you might be surprised if you give him a chance, honey," said Mama.
When Saturday came, Mama and Daddy, Remy and her sister, Samantha, all walked to Mr. Wilhelm's store just before opening time. Mrs. Lawrence was going to sign copies of her book for customers. They were all very excited, but Remy was also a little nervous.
Once inside, Daddy took Samantha to the children's corner and Mama went to the table that had been set up for her. Remy took a deep breath and went to find Mr. Wilhelm so she could return the book.
She found him at a table near the back of the store, playing checkers with a boy about Remy's age. Remy and the boy knew each other! They had been in the same class at school that year. His name was Jake.
Jake was just getting up from the table when Remy came over. "Thanks for the game, Mr. Wilhelm," Jake said happily. He and Remy waved shyly at each other, then he went to the children's corner to read a magazine.
"Hi, Remy! So good to see you!" Mr. Wilhelm said in his funny accent. "How about a game of checkers?"
Remy thought it would be rude to say no, so she sat down as she handed the man back the book. "Oh, you brought it back so soon! You must have enjoyed it!"
"I did, sir. Very much! Thank you," Remy said sincerely.
"Oh, I'm so glad! You know, your mother loved this book when she was a little girl, too," said Mr. Wilhelm.
"She didn't tell me that," Remy responded.
"Maybe she just wanted you to find out how good it was for yourself," he answered.
They continued to talk while they played checkers. Remy liked the game. And soon she realized she liked talking to Mr. Wilhelm, too. He told her about growing up in Germany and about moving to the United States. He told her about meeting Mrs. Wilhelm. And he asked Remy questions, about school and her favorite sports and books. He was remarkably easy to talk to, and he was also very interesting. During their game, she found out Mr. Wilhelm had five children and 16 grandchildren. In his spare time he volunteered at the children's hospital doing magic tricks for the kids. She was so surprised! He wasn't really that strange- just different from her!
"Mr. Wilhelm?" Remy said when the game was almost over. "Yes?" he said. "I was wrong about something," Remy said. "I didn't want to talk to you today because…" Remy hesitated.
"Because you thought I was weird?" Mr. Wilhelm offered.
Remy nodded with a sad look on her face.
"It's okay, my dear," he said. "Sometimes we think we know a lot about a person, just based on what we see on the outside. But that doesn't really tell their story at all."
Remy pondered that for just a moment. "Doesn't tell their story?" she thought to herself. Then it hit her!
"You're like the book!!!" Remy exclaimed. "I thought the book was boring, 'cause of how it looked- when really, it was a wonderful book! Just like with you! I thought you were kinda strange, but now we're friends!"
Mr. Wilhelm laughed and told her, "You are wise beyond your years, Remy. Now you understand what judging a book by its cover really means. That's a lesson that even some grown-ups haven't learned yet."
Remy beamed with pride. Mr. Wilhelm went on. "Each person is created with purpose. And each has a story to tell. If we make up our minds about someone before we get to know them, we can miss out on a really great story."
Remy thought it over. Then she looked over at Jake, still reading his magazine. They had never spoken much at school. Maybe that should change.
"Thanks, Mr. Wilhelm," she said. She gave the old man a quick hug then Remy went over to the sofa and sat down beside Jake.
Mr. Wilhelm put the old, plain-looking book back on the shelf and smiled, looking forward to the next time he could help another little girl or boy find the beauty within its pages.
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Thank you for visiting my blog. I share devotional articles and musings about life, parenting, and the writing journey, as well as important news about my books. I hope you find something of interest here!