“Hey man! Do you have any more suckers?” I had noticed the two boys who wandered across the parking lot, clearly happy that school was out for the day, but also with a goal in mind. One of them swung a stick he had picked up somewhere along the street. I’m guessing that he was imagining it as a weapon; a logical guess considering the games most of the kids spend their spare time at nowadays. Every game that holds the attention of a rambunctious, slightly rebellious 10 year old seems to involve some sort of primitive/futuristic weapon that rests on the shoulder of their character as he/she/it wanders through the milieu of war and aggression depicted on the electronic screen that holds them entranced. No wonder they walk through my door with a swagger of arrogance, as the mere mortal of a shopkeeper pays tribute to the accomplished warlord with a gift of sweets.
Oh, once again I’ve swerved wide of the path I started down. Anyway, the young man was careful to leave his weapon lying on the sidewalk outside the door and came in to take advantage of the free candy available (Only one please! And, use the trash can for your wrapper!) at the counter where I stood helping a customer. I heard his question as I spoke to the man I was helping and glanced over at the bucket where the suckers reside. “Are they gone?” I could plainly see that they weren’t, but wondered what the problem was. “No, there are quite a few here. I just don’t like any of the flavors, ” came the reply. I could barely contain my response. What I wanted to do was to remind him that the candy was free and he would take what he was given, or he could stop coming in. What I said was, “No. I’m busy and can’t take time to get any more right now. You’ll need to choose from what’s there.” I turned my attention back to my customer as the young warrior muttered something under his breath and walked out without taking anything. The customer and his family chuckled with me and then nodded their heads in agreement as I remarked (a la Forrest Gump), “My Mama always told me, ‘Beggars can’t be choosers.'”
I remember an episode my Dad related to me that happened years ago at the church in which I grew up. After I left home and met the Lovely Lady, Dad had become the pastor of the little church. Late one morning, he was sitting in the office working on his sermon for the next week, when a man came in the door. Judging by his ragged clothes and unkempt hair and beard, he was pretty obviously what we would describe as a street person. After a few moments of small talk with Dad, he got right to the point. “I need money for food.” Well Dad, having been around this particular block a time or two, understood that this was usually code for, “I need money for cigarettes and booze.” Not wanting to show any disrespect for the poor fellow, he told him, “I’m just getting ready to eat my lunch. Would you like to eat with me?” Well, this wasn’t what the gentleman had hoped for, but he would be happy to go eat with my father. “Where are we going?” he asked. “Oh, I don’t go anywhere to eat. I make my lunch right here at my desk. I’ll share,” replied Dad. With that, he reached in his desk drawer and pulled out a can of Spam and a loaf of bread, from which he began to make sandwiches. The fellow took one look at what was on the menu and exclaimed, “I’m not eating that!” My dad patiently explained, “This is what I eat when I’m working here. If you’re hungry, it will be filling.” The man stormed out the door, never to beg at that church again while Dad pastored there.
I know that somewhere out there in the wide world, there are people who are happy to get the gifts that are given to them. People who are genuinely in need are grateful for the largesse shown by their benefactors. But, over and over, I have seen examples of ungrateful “moochers”; folks who aren’t really needy, but are just willing to take from others when it suits their purposes. Wait! That describes me! I’m offered a successful business at which to labor and I complain that what I really wanted was just a little leisure time with pay. I have a color television set which is quite large enough to see comfortably (and it has electricity to power it 24 hours in the day), but what I really want is a 3D HDTV, flat screen please, and much larger. You know, picture in picture, detail of all the plays in the game, etc. The list goes on and on. Life itself is a gift, but I want more!
Once a year, we stop to be grateful officially. I’m thinking that’s not enough. Instead of striving every day to get more and more, how about if we stop and give thanks for what we have every day? Maybe if our children saw us sharing our blessings with those around us who are less well-off, they wouldn’t be quite so demanding themselves. We might even hear the words, “Thank you” without having to prompt them every time.
Life is not about entitlements. It’s not about “I got mine; now you get yours.” It’s about loving others as much as we love ourselves, about considering their needs first. Selfishness breeds discontent, which produces greed. It’s time to break the cycle and create a new one. Love breeds contentment, which results in generosity.
And, just a little tip…If you got a horse as a gift, don’t be looking at the teeth. It could come back to bite you!
“Godliness with contentment is great gain”
(I Timothy 6:6″
“God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.”
(Elizabeth Barrett Browning~English poet~1806-1861)