The day before Thanksgiving, something happened. Well, a lot of things happened, but one in particular. Early in the day I was at Stater Brothers with my son. We were doing the “Get Teresa a turkey” thing, and filling up on the last things we needed to get us through Thursday. Minor things like milk, yeast, etc. The lines weren’t horrible, but they were there. The woman ahead of me started putting her items on the belt while the people ahead of her paid. She seemed nervous and caught my eye. “I left my purse at home. I sure hope I have enough cash. Prioritize, right?” She was laughing, casual, but I almost had a feeling that it wasn’t quite true. She watched the register tally rise as I passed her my cash. I only had eight dollars myself (I’m a debit card kind of gal), but it looked like it’d be enough to make up the difference. She seemed to demur and then finally accepted it. She offered me the change, but I told her to keep it. All was well.
But that’s not what happened. Not what I mean anyway.
Later I was back to get something else (why is it there is always so much more to get done!!!) and a couple waited in line ahead of us. The man between them and me was in an electric chair/scooter thing. It seemed as if time was dragging. We all wondered what was going on, but after a while, it became obvious. The young woman saw someone she knew and said, “My mom sent us to the store with 100 dollars in gift cards and a 200 dollar list!” I was dumbfounded. What a frustration. I saw her husband talking to someone on a phone and then he hurried outside. A CSM came over, apparently to void the transaction. All items were put in a cart for when the rest of the money arrived. I sat there with my hand on my debit card. I could afford it. I could. Why was I so hesitant? It’s not like me.
As I left the store, I saw her on the phone pacing up and down, glancing around for a car– obviously waiting for someone to bring the rest of the money. I felt bad. Why had I been so selfish? It felt unsettling, and yet even then I wouldn’t go in and take care of it. I opened the car, sat in my seat, and stared at the steering wheel. Why?
Then I realized why and I didn’t like it. I had a laptop to replace. I didn’t like spending more money when that big chunk was coming out. Of course, the next day I didn’t think twice about spending half the amount on a Christmas tree, decorations, or a Christmas present. Combined, those came to almost double what it would have cost me.
It was a kind of selfishness I am not happy to discover I have. I like to help. I’m a fixer. I want to fix things. It would have felt wonderful to take that frustration and burden off those people, but the holidays are here and I have learned that I am selfish. Sigh. I’m willing to serve others if it doesn’t interfere with MY plans. That is just pathetic.
However, it’s a good thing. I mean, isn’t that how we grow? Isn’t it how we learn to die to self? Had this not happened, I’d never have learned it. I hope that if something like this happens again, I’ll take that pause and realize that we can cut a few things and cover it. I kept justifying my actions because it really seemed as if the money was coming– they had it. You know what, that wasn’t the point. The point was I could have met a need but my wants overrode that. That is what bothers me.
I know I can’t meet every need out there. I know that there are times I have to let others handle it. That isn’t what is bothering me. Why I didn’t do it is what bothers me. The selfishness behind my motives is the problem. I was willing to help when the problem didn’t “hurt” but when it meant I might have to limit our spending, suddenly I was a little less willing to open the wallet.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m overreacting, but I don’t think so. It’s been bugging me for days. I thought about doing something for someone else, but you know what? That isn’t the point for me. I think the real problem is that I felt like I should do something and I didn’t do it. I feel like I failed the Lord somehow. Thank God for His forgiveness if I did. And, tomorrow is fresh with no mistakes in it. Yet.