Perusing the Ark’s selection of purses hanging from a Peg-Board, my eye fell upon a shabby black vinyl number with an unusual barrel-shaped buckle. I fussed with the buckle and out of habit poked around inside the handbag. Tucked away in the back pocket was a cheap gold-colored plastic bus-pass holder that opened to reveal a senior-citizen RTA travel card with photo. A handsome woman with curiously plucked eyebrows stared out. The imperiousness of her expression may have been a trick of the mug-shot photography, but I felt cowed by her stern gaze. Opposite the pass was an astonishing document, a little printed card that read, “Purse Blessing. The substance in this purse is blessed for its true use. All through whose hands this money passes are enriched and blessed with wisdom, love, and good judgment.” I held the cheap purse in one hand, the card in the other. Fate had guided this woman’s handbag–with its meager yet powerful contents–here to me in the Ark. The woman stared hard at me, and I knew I couldn’t break the chain. I bought the purse, blessed contents and all.

Store quirk: A bedsheet separates the store from the employee-only sorting area. A flat pillow shaped like a stop sign is pinned to it as an additional deterrent.

Ark Thrift Shop

1505 W. Chicago


Hours: Sunday 10:30 to 5, Monday through Thursday 10 to 6, Friday 10 to 5, closed Saturday.