Yesterday was a rather gloomy day. The temperature was a bit cool, andit was dark and overcast. My mood apparently decreased along with the sunshine, so what did I do? I went shopping. This is a fairly new thing for me. I normally stay far away from the stores, but recently I am shopping to try to kill time and/or to pacify myself. I only spent about an hour and less than eighty dollars on eight items of clothing for myself and my husband, but the moment I started to check out, I felt sick to my stomach. It wasn't that I didn't have the money (I paid cash) -- it's just that I have a persistent voice in my head that repeatedly questions me: "Is it a need or want?"
To make matters worse, as I left the shopping center parking lot and started driving towards the highway, a man was standing at a stop light with a sign that read something to the effect of: "Hungry, will work for food." As I glanced his way, I inadvertently caught direct eye contact with him. It was such an awkward moment as I sat staring at him from the comfort of my car with my needless new purchases in the back seat. His gaze was sincere, and I quickly looked the other way and prayed for the light to turn green. Once I finally started driving again, I began making up excuses in my mind such as: "He's probably looking for money to buy drugs or alcohol. I wouldn't have been helping him at all --it would have been enabling." But really, who am I to judge these things?
So here I sit with a few more dresses, and my husband will have several more of those damn golf shirts. (He doesn't golf, but apparently there isn't a fashion designer on Earth who can come up with another style of shirt for men.) The look in the man's eyes is stuck in my mind. Imagine what that eighty dollars might have done for him. Or perhaps he was just an example of all of those individuals out there at this moment to whom that eighty dollars might have meant much more than another shirt or dress. It might have purchased a week's worth of groceries. I personally know friends who could have used that money. Most of us nowadays do not need to send money in an envelope to a charity in hopes that it will go to good use. I bet we can all say that we know of someone in our lives who could use money right now.
Today I am going back to that store to return everything. If I do so and simply return the money to my checking account, it probably won't even be noticed. But if I take the money and forward it to someone else, or purchase a gas card or a supermarket gift card for that person or several people -- imagine the joy, the relief, the hope. Instead of ending my day with a feeling of guilt and emptiness, I can end the day knowing that I made a difference. Unlike shopping, this idea feels natural and thoroughly gratifying. I just have to break the cycle of consumerism and stop getting sucked into the ideas of a materialistic society.
I'm so glad that God placed that man in my midst because I ignored the more subtle internal signal when I was at the checkout line. I truly believe, as Psalm 40 says, that God's law is "written within my heart." And I found an interesting translation that better fits my experience from the Aramaic Bible in Plain English: "To do your pleasure oh, God, I have desired, and your Law is within my belly." No wonder I was sick to my stomach! Today I will remember and act upon Jesus' words: "It is more blessed to give than to receive." I have no doubt that my stomach and heart will be pleased.
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