“May I help you, Darlin’?” The woman behind the cash register slid her half-glasses up onto her head.
“I’d like to purchase a gift certificate, please.” I gave the amount. “And I’d like to buy this card and a loaf of bread.”
Inside Basic Necessities, a local specialty wine, cheese and bread shop, kitchen smells of butternut squash soup and Panini sandwiches joined the lobby scent of fresh cut flowers tucked into displays of local artists’ books, handicrafts and homemade condiments.
A customer waiting for a latte-to-go observed, “Someone’s getting a nice gift.”
I missed an opportunity.
Instead, I smiled. “A man in our neighborhood is having a retirement party, and I know he and his wife like to eat here and purchase wine.”
Now that might sound perfectly fine. But my words said less about honoring our neighbor and more about my pride.
Money is different for people according to their situations:
- It is about survival for many in the world.
- It is about managing and planning one’s life.
- It is about networking – if one is very wealthy.
Although adept at crying about my poverty, I’ve never lived in survival mode. No matter how tight things got, I always had a warm place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear and family who loved and cared for me. In truth, I’ve always lived solidly within the managing group. So how do I relate to the other two groups?
Giving to those less fortunate has always been easy, as it is for most of us. These days, my husband and I give to Goodwill, the Salvation Army and our local food bank. At church, my hands are now among many making quilts, emergency relief kits and Christmas gift boxes. But I don’t feel particularly comfortable around those who are very wealthy. Why?
Thinking about it I realize that, out of pride, I fall into money traps: buying esteem, showing off my comparative comfort, and giving money instead of myself. Clearly, I am a long way from humility.
So what could I have said to that other customer, to put money in its place? “A worthy and deserving man in our neighborhood is retiring. He gives us the most valuable thing he has: time. All I’m really giving him is money, and money is just money.”
Next time, I’ll be sure to carry that expression in my back pocket.