Megan has been whisked away to parts unknown, to a village of craftspeople producing objects of incredible quality and beauty. Nick tells her he has bought her there to heal her troubled soul, but she is about to discover that her adventure has only just begun:
Nick arrived early the next morning as Meg, Molly and the children were finishing breakfast. Molly sat Nick and Meg at the kitchen table with steaming cups of tea, and then herded her family out to give them privacy.
“You have a gift,” he began, indicating the piece of parchment he held as calmly as though he was giving her directions to the grocery store.
“Me?” One sentence in, and he was already wrong. It had all been a mistake. She should have known. “I don’t think so.”
“You see through to the truth of people, although you seem to be blind when it comes to yourself.”
She screwed her face into scornful disbelief but swallowed the retorts that bubbled up.
He pressed on. “You have wondered what we do here. We are in the business of helping people.”
“The business of helping people? How’s that?”
She wondered why she hadn’t noticed before that the worry lines in his brow never fully disappeared, and there were laugh lines at the corners of his eyes that crinkled when he smiled. He had said that he was older than he looked. “Everything we make, everything we do,” he began, “exists solely for the purpose of relieving others of the burdens that threaten their bliss. We look for those who hide their need behind joyous living and service to others. There is plenty of help to be had for those who ask, but some in the most desperate situations soldier on without complaint the point of absolute devastation. We want to save them from that.”
“How? And how do you know who they are?”
“We get messages from those who see their need.”
“What messages? Who sends the messages? How do they find you?”
“They come to us like the falling rain, hundreds of them with hundreds of different needs.”
“And what do you do for them?”
“Whatever we can as our resources allow.”
“Have you seen money change hands since you have been here? Our people work every day, but have you seen any surplus of their products?”
“No,” she replied, replaying her time in the village like a video in her mind’s eye.
“Some of their needs can be satisfied by the things we make here. We simply drop them on their doorsteps.”
She thought of the shopkeeper’s comments that now seemed so long ago: ‘Folks need clothes, they appear. Folks need food, it appears. Folks need money, it appears. No muss, no fuss, no by-your-leave.’
“What if they need money?” she asked.
“You would be surprised how often a need for money can be solved with a different kind of gift. However, we have shops all over the world where we sell our goods and put the money in the treasury,” he answered patiently. “It can be distributed as the need arises.”
“So these few people provide for the needs of hundreds?”
“There are fogous and souterrains all over the world that all lead to different parts of this country, and there are other villages to handle their needs.”
“And you are over them all?”
“I am. But this one is my home.”
“All this is very nice,” she replied maintaining her skepticism, “but where do I fit in?”
“As I said, you see the truth of things, and we need to focus our resources in those places where the truest need exists.”
“Whatever in my life makes you think I am qualified to do this?”
How could he look at her like that? With such kindness and affection? “Your qualifications are so obvious that only you cannot see them.”
“I don’t share your confidence,” she replied, hanging her head.
He gently lifted her chin to face him. “I have enough confidence for both of us.”
“Fine,” she said, still doubtful, but unable to say no to his unwavering conviction, “so what do I do?”
“We will see that you get to where you need to be and have the means to find the person you’ve been sent to know.”
“You know, this seems a little Big Brother. Who are you to decide who needs what and who deserves what? And watching people who don’t know they’re being watched is a little creepy, don’t you think?”
“In the past, we were generous without qualification, but the need has outgrown our ability to help. When we realized that there were many other groups delivering aid, and many people asking for things they do not need, we rethought our mission. That is when we decided we could best serve those who do not ask for help. It is more challenging but ultimately more satisfying.”
“You will help me?”
“Ok,” she replied, resigning herself to his insistence. “Let’s get started.”
All of her suspicions melted at the expression on his face. His gaze held such love for her that it made her head swim. “The first name on your list is Lyda Andrews. She lives in the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.”