Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Shadow of Poverty

I think the memory of poverty casts a shadow on the rest of your life. It may make you richer for the appreciation of small things, or it may make you miserly for the fear of losing things dear. All in one's perspective I guess.

The other day I went to my old yarn shop, on the other side of town. When I go to the one on "this" side of town, they know me as a woman who blows in, always in a hurry, and buys a ton of yarn apparently without regard to price - because God knows, I spend a lot of money on yarn.

On the "other" side of town, they have known me for probably close to 20 years. So, the older woman, who is now on oxygen, stayed to help me find some yarn for a last minute gift even though she was done with her shift and supposed to leave. I appreciated her help. We talked some about the good old days. I was astounded that she remembered the days when I had given up my automobile so that I could pay my child support. I would ride my bike to the yarn shop (and everywhere else too). She remembered when I could barely afford to purchase any yarn and they would take a post dated check from me and wait until the first of the month to cash it. She told me that she and the other owner worried about me terribly and how happy they were that I was able to pay my child support, get a decent job, get an education, graduate with honors, get my promotions, buy a house, etc., etc., etc. I don't sit around and remember these things consciously.

But I don't think I ever forget.

Tomorrow I am invited to a Christmas party with some work friends. I really do like these friends and I am looking forward to it. But the thing that has me stymied is the concept of a "gag gift." I can't think of anything that could be a bigger waste of time or energy. Why not get a real gift? Or no gift at all? Why waste time, money, gift wrap, energy, and life on a "gag?" I do not get it and I don't think I am ever going to get it. I don't think it is something that can be explained to a person who ever tried to figure out how to feed three kids with one egg. A person who was grateful for the healthy legs to pedal her $100. bicycle around town while others worried about me.

I will try, honest I will, but I don't expect to understand or do it well. I don't even want to.

Instead, I will stick five $20. bills in Christmas card for a woman at work to give to her daughter-in-law who is likely in her last days of cancer. I don't know what else to do and I know they need it. I understand that. Oh, I probably can't afford to do it, but I do all kinds of things I can't afford to do. And I am not telling you this to tell you how great I am. It is just that we all have something that we can give that is meaningful. And we ought to try to give that instead of trying to be clever or funny or look good.

Sorry, I still don't feel really great, and I think I am being a little bit heavy-handed here. So, forgive me please. I will be back to myself soon, I am sure.

Yesterday at the grocery store, I saw a woman honk at an old person backing out of a handicapped parking place and it made me cry. Why can't we just slow the hell down and be nice to each other?

We used to talk about these things in AA meetings. Giving to others without expecting anything in return. Giving something to another without getting found out. Smiling when we felt like cussing. These are the things that build a different character out of the selfish wreckage we bring to the table when we arrive at the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous. Oh, it is such good stuff.


Anonymous said...

It is all good stuff, Mary. I do not understand a gag gift for Christmas either. I have been working on my anonymous Christmas project all day and it feels really great.
Thanks for this post.

Syd said...

I think that this is still good stuff and it's people like you Mary who cry when they see the insensitivity of others that make me know that there are some people who do care in this world. I know that I am one also. So that makes two of us. I bet there are more as well.

A gag gift---I guess the best one that I ever got was a fart machine from a cousin. It still makes people laugh to this day.

Kim A. said...

I'm going to make a special effort to not be that person who honked. I hope you get some hitch for your giddyup soon. (don't ask, it's a North Carolina thing)


Ed G. said...

Good stuff indeed. Wishing you much improved health.

Blessings and aloha...

Lou said...

My husband and I had a baby (30 years ago), and we had no money and no clue. When we had another one, I knew the meaning of "robbing Peter to pay Paul." I am grateful now for those days of Kraft mac & cheese (it used to be 19 cents a box), and the deep appreciation for $1 that I feel today.

I can't believe I have met so many decent, moral people online. Like Syd said, there must be a lot more.

Pam said...

Oh mary, you are feeling the spirit of Christmas and they just don't know how much better that is than "a gag".
I'm glad you had the yarn store experience, what a Christmas blessing that was for you!

AnyEdge said...

One of my favorite memories is at one of those gag gift parties all fighting (playfully) over who was going to end up stuck with the big can of olives. It was wonderful because it was friends and family and joy. And it only cost us each $5.

But I take your point. As a person perpetually irritated by Christmas as it is, I know that I need to look past the disgust I feel and take in the love in the season.

Trailboss said...

This is all good stuff Mary. I can't stand to see people disrespect others either. I have been known (honestly) to give the rude one a HUGE piece of my mind. Katit bar the door I just can't stand it. I think my So can verify this!

Nothing really gives me greater joy than giving. I remember the Christmas that Scott and I said it to each other. That we truly would rather give than receive. I was 20 yrs. old. I am grateful to have been raised in the best way possible by 2 parents that absolutely did their best.

Scott W said...

It's true, So has given a piece of her mind away on more than one occasion.

I am grateful I can manage money. It was really handy when the coins were scarce.

Willa said...

I'm so with you on the gag gift, Mary, it is completely a waste of time on something no one cares about really.

It's heartwarming that you are giving that lady the money.

I guess by reading this today I am very glad and lucky to be who I am, even though things aren't perfect in my life.

Doc in Al-Anon said...

We took a last minute gift with little thought in it to a friends when invited to dinner this week. It was coffee and hot chocolate. They are in rough patch financially, and had no gift for us. And she didn't drink coffee. The look on their faces... Pain, disappointment, awkwardness... Ouch. Not as silly as a gag gift, but still a waste. Sometimes I just miss.

dAAve said...

How come I am so late getting here?
Oh well. I shall make a more concerted attempt NOT to take myself too seriously.

Findon said...

Go easy on yourself Mary. I like the bit about the old ladies in the Yarn shop. Nice to keep supporting them.