During the six months process of building our dream home, I compiled a list of accessories and odd furniture pieces I wanted for the new house. I needed something for the fireplace mantle, some more lamps, a desk chair, patio furniture and an area rug. For our library nook of floor-to-ceiling bookcases, I wanted a freestanding library ladder.
Most of the items were not too difficult to find on sale or through friends who looked for me as they themselves shopped in antique or furniture stores—except for the library ladder. The new library ladders were very expensive and ran along a track to be mounted on a tall, long wall of bookshelves. My library was a small corner of a room, but still, I wanted to be able to access the tallest shelves at ten feet.
I had seen pictures of beautiful old, wooden ladders used in English libraries where the four or five steps were mounted around a pole. This I thought would be perfect — beautiful, unique, as well as easy to move around. Fortunately, I live in a town known for its quaint antique shops and I am a frequent shopper. We also live close to Dallas where the sources seemed endless.
About three months into my search, I spotted such a ladder in a local antique store, One of a Kind. There wasn’t a price on the piece so I asked Dave Christianson, the owner, what he wanted for the ladder. I tried not to seem too anxious, knowing an overly interested buyer can sometimes cause a price inflation, especially in an antique shop.
“Oh, that’s not for sale.” Dave replied, “I just use it around here.”
I was disappointed, but believed that his casual attitude meant that such ladders were probably around elsewhere and could be found somewhere in Dallas.
I started calling the long list of antique dealers from the huge Dallas Yellow Pages and I asked at import and department stores, which I frequented. I could not find anyone who had seen such a ladder in years. The more hopeless it seemed the more determined I became. My husband said I was “beyond determined and into compulsive.”
The ladder at One of a Kind was not for sale, but I knew it was still there—so close and yet so far from my possession. Every few weeks I would go back and try to talk Dave into selling the ladder. He would laugh when he saw me coming and we’d joke in a friendly way about the ladder’s value and availability. Mr. Christianson revealed that the ladder had sentimental value for him. He’d had it a long time and he did use it every day.
“But wouldn’t a new metal step ladder serve your purposes just as well?” I argued. He promised to look for another library ladder for me as he was constantly buying for the shop from sources I could not access.
Finally in frustration a few weeks later, I volunteered, “O.K., just name your price. I’ve never known an antique dealer who didn’t have his price. I’m the customer you’ve always dreamed of. Just name your price.”
“No, it’s not for sale,” Dave insisted. Once again, I left the store empty-handed.
I was returning from our building site the following week when my thoughts again turned to the library ladder. The workmen had just begun installing the bookcases in my library nook and I still had not found a suitable ladder. It was thirty minutes until closing time at One of a Kind and I decided to try again. What could I possibly say that I hadn’t said before? Maybe I could take a picture of the room and then Dave could see for himself how perfect the ladder would be in my home.
As I drove downtown, I passed by our church. I remembered a sermon our pastor had preached recently. All of a sudden I knew what I would say to Dave Christianson.
“Do you read the Bible much?” I asked him. Dave didn’t answer but his smile encouraged me to go on. “Could I tell you a Bible story?” I asked politely.
“Yes,” he chuckled.
“Jesus told a story about two neighbors. In the middle of the night one of them received an unexpected guest. It was customary to offer food and drink to a visitor no matter when they arrived. The host had no bread left over from that day and had no way of getting any except to go and ask it from one of his neighbors.
“Families in that day slept all together in one room, on the floor with the father lying closest to the door. When the man seeking the bread knocked on his neighbor’s door, he woke him. ‘Go away,’ the groggy man angrily whispered. ‘You’ll wake my family.’
“A few minutes later the man returned. ‘Do you have any bread left over? I must have it to give my guest.’
“‘Don’t bother me. My children are asleep and the cupboard is on the other side of the room.’
“Again and again the man returned until finally his neighbor got up. Jesus said that it was not because his neighbor was kind or wanted to do the right thing, but because of his friend’s persistence that he eventually gave him what he wanted.”
After a long pause, I looked into Dave’s puzzled eyes and said, “Now, I want you to know I’m going to come down here every day until you sell me that library ladder.”
Very slowly Dave replied. “Well, I never thought I’d ever make a sell for Jesus – – – but you can have the ladder.”
Today my library is complete. People often ask me where I got such an unusual ladder. Now I have an occasion to tell them Jesus’ parable of the persistent neighbor. The story is found in Luke 11 right after Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray what we call The Lord’s Prayer. Part of prayer is petition, and persistent petition seems to be encouraged and even rewarded. It certainly gave me a step up.