At the secondhand book fair

Our church in London had a secondhand book fair some weeks back to support TearFund’s humanitarian appeal for Ukraine. I was so encouraged to hear we raised more than £2,000 in donations.

But the moment I’ll take with me during my day manning the stalls is a small exchange with a young woman.

It was early in the morning when she came through the gate. She was dressed in a simple black t-shirt and black jeans.

She didn’t look at the books. She stopped at our table full of seedlings that were held up by small Ukrainian flags 🇺🇦, got out her phone and took a picture.

“They’re sunflower seedlings,” I say.

It takes a moment for the words to sink in. Then she looks like she is about to burst into tears.

Ukraine has been torn apart since Russia invaded on February 2022. Millions of people have been displaced as once peaceful cities like Odesa and Mariupol became battle grounds.

So many have been slaughtered. So many families have been separated not knowing when they’ll be united again.

What I didn’t know then, but later found out, was that the sunflower can also be a symbol of peace for Ukrainians.

“Are you Ukrainian?” asks my friend.

“Yes I am,” she responds. She has found work near our church and promises to come back later.

“Well we pray for your country every day and we’re raising funds today to help,” says my friend.

The young woman stops and does that thing with her feet. Like she doesn’t quite know whether to go or stay. She then turns and gives my friend a hug before she rushes out the gate.

This book fair took months to organise, but I’d say it was worth it for that fleeting moment of comfort received and care returned.

Praying for peace.

*A form of this story has been shared on a Facebook community page and my own personal Facebook account. I regret not taking a photo of the table with the seedlings.

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