I had an interesting experience a couple of days ago. Well, actually, I have lots of interesting experiences every day, but this one seemed more noteworthy than most. Mostly because it turned into an exercise in self examination for me.
I am given to over-thinking things. A lot. Like motivation. Did I make a particular decision based on – what? What it says about me? Good or bad? What influence it might have on the world around me? (Judging by past experiences, I would have thought “Not Much.”) Did I do it knowing no one but me would ever know about it therefore it is only important to me?
Did I go out of my way to do that all-inclusive “right thing” even tho it was inconvenient for me and no one would know the difference?
Well, the answer is…I don’t know the answer. But I DID feel like something a little special happened for me with this latest decision.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me well at all, that I was at the Jewish Women’s Council Thrift Shop on this particular day. And almost any other day for that matter.
I tried on a pair of shoes that looked really good, but hurt like hell…and this time, I DIDN’T buy them. But they WERE cute and I may still go back. I mean really, if they’re still available three days later, I must be supposed to suffer to look good.
I DID buy a new book…a novel by Dave Barry. I find him one of the funniest guys around and this time he has produced a book of fiction. As far as I know, it’s his only novel. But I don’t know that for sure, so if you care, you’ll have to look it up for yourself.
I really went over to donate some stuff, but you know, you can’t get that close to a possible bargain and not at least look, right? Found some good stuff..the book, of course, and a great looking belt one of those stretchy things that fit just about everybody, and it had a great buckle…bronze-colored sea shell that snapped in to place…pretty.
I was in line, waiting to check out behind a woman who couldn’t make up her mind if she did – or did not – want to actually buy a would-be leather jacket.
There was an older woman standing behind me. Not older than me, no one is ever older than me any more. But she WAS elderly. And kind of run down looking…you know that look? Like she’s not expecting much of the world…and is seldom disappointed.
She was clutching a pair of shoes. Good, solid, RED shoes. And she was waiting patiently for her turn.
I smiled and said hello and she smiled back. Kind of a timid smile. But a smile just the same. She glanced away and then turned back to me.
“Your earrings,” she said. “I love your earrings. They are so pretty.”
I did what almost every woman I know does when someone mentions her earrings. I fingered them to remind me which of the hundreds of pairs of earrings I possess, I had chosen to wear that morning.
I smiled and said something about them being among my favorites. This was not necessarily true, but if I didn’t like them I wouldn’t be wearing them, right?
She looked away again and we stood in silence patiently waiting for the lady ahead of us in line to decide if she REALLY, REALLY wanted to buy the damn jacket. The lady behind the counter was much more patient than I would have been.
Finally it was my turn. I put my treasures on the counter and the volunteer totaled the cost. It was very small.
I turned to say goodbye to the little lady behind me. She smiled again., and said, very, very quietly, “Those are lovely earrings.”
She turned back to the counter and I walked away.
I went about five steps, stopped, removed the earrings and turned back. My little lady was counting out six dollars for her shoes. I tapped her lightly on the shoulder and handed her the earrings.
“Wear them,” I said. “they’ll be perfect with your new shoes.”
She looked at me in confusion and then at the lady behind the counter.
“Enjoy them,” I said and patted her shoulder.
“But…” she stopped. “No one ever…” She stopped again. “She started again. “What can I…”
I smiled at her and kept walking. And then the demand for an explanation started. Why had I given this perfect stranger my earrings?
Okay, the lady had looked kind of weary and like she could use a boost. But why from me? I’m not a big believer in stars in a crown at some future date. I don’t think a personal God is sitting up there is heaven making notes on nice gestures. So?
Well, maybe it was so the lady behind the counter would notice what a good person I really am. If nothing else she might give me a little break on the price of something on my next trip.
No, that can’t be it. What kind of a break do you need when a book costs two dollars and a belt four?
Then I remembered some very wise words from my mother when I was about 10. I came home from school very pleased with myself. I had helped a little boy who was being teased by a couple of the older kids. Very excited I told mom about how Sister said I was a good example of “ helping thy neighbor.” She said I deserved to be rewarded for what I’d done. I agreed with her whole heartedly.
But my mother? She sat there and looked a lttle sad. That was not what I wanted. I wanted her to gush over the wonder that was ME!
“You did a good thing Betty,” she said. “You helped someone in need. But until you do it just because it needs to be done instead of because it got you a smile from Sister Mary Alice, it isn’t really a good deed at all.”
So there it is. Things my mother taught me – and is still teaching me after all these years.
“Okay Mom,” I said into the air. I think I’ve finally got it.” Then I let myself into my car and drove home.
The word I have chosen for this month OLEAGINOUS. I love this word. It means exactly what it should…it is, to my ears at least, smarmy, unctuous and fawning. All wonderful words to describe oily. Containing oil. Just roll it around in your mouth for a bit…doesn’t feel exactly like something that is – well – oily?