Bonnie Brodie recently helped a customer visiting the Graymoor Book and Gift Center.
The shopper, a woman, was perusing the store for about an hour. She was in search of books on “Alateen,” or teenagers affected by someone else’s alcoholism.
“I pointed her to a whole bunch of things,” Brodie said. “I told her we have books on how parents and grandparents handle addiction, how families handle it. Once a customer tells us what they’re looking for, targets a certain thing, then we can say, ‘This is great for that.’”
To Brodie and Betty Hammond, the curators of the gift center, guiding the addicted and recovering to appropriate literature is one of the most rewarding parts of the job. It’s their way of helping carry out the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement’s mission of healing the broken and those who have lost their way.“We get every spectrum of people. Addicts who are still fighting, they’re coming here for help and we’re doing our best to help them. We aren’t trying to be evangelists.
We are just trying to be what we are put on this earth to be, as a fellow human being, helping each other,” Hammond said. “What I enjoy the most, I guess, is one lady in particular comes in and she says, ‘You know, every time I come here, I always feel better when I leave.’ That’s what we are working toward.”
The Graymoor Book and Gift Center reopened this past December, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced it into a temporary closure. The store is not a Christian emporium, but an ecumenical shop. Nestled on the fourth floor of the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center, the store is complete with texts from many religions, literature tailored to help addicts and recovering addicts, self-help books and published works on spirituality.
“The store is really connected to every aspect of the Friars’ ministry,” said Laura Graeber, registrar for the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center.
The store also offers a plethora of souvenirs and goods. Among them are cards for holidays of all religions and celebrations, statues, rosaries, crosses, special recovery medallions and religious coins, prayer cards, CDs and DVDs on meditation and artistic photos of all the landmarks on the Graymoor campus.
Shoppers can usually find the store decorated in accordance with the calendar. For instance, throughout February, the back wall was adorned with Black History Month and Valentine’s Day decorations.
Brother Dan Houde, SA, worked at the bookstore part-time up until the pandemic, serving as the shop’s Guest Master. He said people in recovery often stopped by, and he was always eager to help them, whether through listening to their stories or directing them to Saint Christopher’s Inn.
“They’ll want to tell you their story,” Brother Dan said. “We might have someone who is addicted and would ask about Saint Christopher’s Inn. I’d tell them to go to the front desk and they could get more answers about how the place is run, general information. And on days I had my habit on, it was good for them to see a Friar.”
Stephen Evans, who works in the store as a volunteer, agreed.
“The best thing I do is listen to their stories,” he said. “We just communicate. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of working here. We don’t just sell books. We are there for people. People want to talk. They want compassion and they come here for that. It gives faith substance.”
Father Tom Orians, SA, who has helped in the store periodically over the last 25 years, said, “What anyone who comes into the store quickly discovers is the great variety of religious articles, gift items, and books to help just about everyone in their unique spiritual and life journey, which is the heart of our mission of At-One-Ment as Friars and as a community.”
Materials on recovery, Hammond said, is the store’s “bread and butter.” Brodie said when people stop in and tell their stories of recovery, it usually brings her a heartwarming feeling.
“It’s kind of the place you get help. If you want spiritual help, if you want to meditate. We have books on depression, anxiety, aging, grief. We have all kinds of stuff to help people. We are a place that tries to uplift and help people. I feel that,” Brodie said. “There’s good will. It is such a good will place. And we extend that to our customers.”
Along with recovering addicts, the store has seen an influx of customers during weekend Graymoor retreats.
Hammond has witnessed it, having worked on and off in the shop for the past 19 years. She had previously worked at IBM and held two other full-time jobs.
“I always gravitated back to here, because I love it here,” Hammond said. “I love the interaction with the customers.”
Brodie comes from a diverse background in sales and retail, before coming to Graymoor at the end of last October. She previously worked in a corporate environment dealing with insurance and commodities, and later in a woman’s clothing store.
Working in the bookstore, she said, has been a wonderful experience since she joined.
“People genuinely care about each other, they want to help each other,” she said of Graymoor. “It’s so peaceful. And the store gives guests something tangible to take away from the mountain.”
Brother Dan joined the Society of the Atonement in 1958, making his final vows in 1966. Evans worked at Saint Christopher’s Inn from 1997 to 2002 and has volunteered in the bookstore for the past 20 years.
Father Tom, a native of Tiffin, Ohio, entered the Society of the Atonement in 1985. He first professed his vows in 1987 and was ordained in 1992.
The Graymoor Book and Gift Center is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visit Graymoor Books Gift Center for more information, or email GraymoorBooks@AtonementFriars.org.