I was near Darien, Georgia not too long ago. Darien is about 15 miles north of Brunswick on Interstate 95 in southern Georgia. I had stopped at exit 49 just west of Darien to shop at an outlet mall.
The mall was conveniently located on the route to a number of destinations where I made speaking presentations from time to time. I am familiar with its layout. It has a Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant and a number of anchor stores – Ralph Lauren Polo, Ann Taylor, etc. Since I was in no particular hurry, I had time to browse.
As I strolled the sidewalk, I was amazed to see how many stores were vacant. In one of the more secluded areas of the mall I saw a sign that read “Thrift Store.”
That piqued my interest. The store was a church-affiliated entity. A sign on the door read, “cash or local check only.” I decided to give the store a look.
Everything about the store had a modest quality about it. Shelves filled with odds and ends beckoned me to take a closer look. There were antique tinted Mason jars,
China cups, odd pieces of cookware and old record albums – nothing of particular interest to me on that day.
After a few minutes, my curiosity satisfied, I turned to leave the store. That’s when I saw it. High on a shelf, in an oddly, out-of-the-way spot, it sat serenely. I stepped closer to get a better look. Matted and framed in precise needle-pointed letters, it read,
“Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord,
my strength and my Redeemer.”
It was supported by a small wooden stand. I carefully took it down from the shelf to study its craftsmanship. The needlework was beautifully detailed; its green matting, slightly faded, but its gold frame had weathered time well. Its back was tightly sealed with aging, heavy brown paper. It was, in my estimation, a small masterpiece. Then, I noticed the price – $4.
“Four dollars,” I whispered to myself.
I found myself shaking my head. I was looking at a treasure and it only cost $4.
As I held the frame in my hands, and prized it for its great value, I perceived it was fashioned my one of God’s children, a loving mother or grandmother many years before. My best guess was, instead of getting passed down, it had been set aside. And it ended up in, of all places, a thrift store.
Once fashioned my loving hands, it now, after many years, had made its way back into loving hands…mine.
Sometimes, when I least expect it, God taps me on the shoulder and says, “Here, take a look at this.” This was one of those moments.
A few years back, I was making the drive from Charleston, South Carolina to Myrtle Beach on U.S. 17. As I cruised northward at a leisurely speed, I spied what had every appearance of an old country store on the right-hand side of the road. I did a quick double take and looked closer. The sign on the front read, “Carolina Country Store.” That called for U turn.
I pulled up in front of the store that faced the south. As I approached the entrance, I read another signed posted inconspicuously on the screen door. It read, “Shirt on and pants up or no service.”
I knew I was going to like this place.
Inside, I found so many things which took me back to country stores of long ago – a creaky oiled floor, ancient wooden shelves, signs advertising products of the past. And to my absolute delight, in the center of the store, I found an open-top drink cooler. Inside stood an army of Nehis, R.C.’s and Dr. Peppers in original glass bottles, standing neck-deep in cold ice water. I could hardly believe my eyes.
I drew a cold orange Nehi from among its frosty companions and headed to the counter. The proprietor rang it up on the cash register – $1.29 – worth every penny.
He handed me a flat bottle opener that was kept hidden under the register. I put it to good use.
Then, I took a long, cool swig from that orange Nehi. You remember a “swig,” don’t you? Taking a swig is much better than taking a drink. When you take a swig, you take your time. I took my time.
And driving up U.S. 17, I took a trip back in time to country stores of yesteryear. Another unexpected treasure – this one found in rural South Carolina.
It seems like treasures can be found everywhere. But you have to look for them.
Jack McCall is an author and also writes a weekly column for The Democrat.