Yesterday I stood in a long line at the Scholastic Book Warehouse Sale. I go every December, to buy books for my classroom library, and I allow myself $80 to spend.
$80 at the Scholastic Warehouse Sale nets about 20 books, and as I guided my cart of books through the snaking line, I glimpsed the person behind me holding four books in her hands.
“Is that all you have?” I asked.
“Oh, then go in front of me. Seriously. You only have four books,” I said.
“Oh I couldn’t. You were here first!”
“I insist. Please. Go in front of me.”
“No, that’s okay,” she said.
“Seriously. It’s not a big deal. Please go ahead of me,” I said.
She smiled sheepishly and said, “Okay. Thank you.”
But she stayed in line behind me.
When we got to the front of the line, the volunteer directing traffic asked how I was paying.
“With my debit card, but she’s going first,” I said motioning to the woman behind me.
The woman behind me laughed nervously.
It was finally my turn to check out, and I turned around and said, “Please. Go ahead. You have a fraction of the books I do.”
She shook her head–almost violently–and said, “No, really. It’s okay.”
Not wanting to cause a scene, I pushed my cart to the open cash register and started unloading books. All day yesterday, I thought about this exchange, and how hurt and confused I felt, trying to do something nice for a stranger, only to be denied.
It’s not the first time; no good deed goes unpunished, after all. But in the context of Advent, I saw deeper meaning.
How often is God turning around to me, telling me to “go ahead,” and in my pride and stubbornness, I tell Him “No thank you”?
This week’s advent meditations were all about light and grace, and my only regret is that I didn’t keep up with them on a daily basis. I navigated some rocky waters this week, and I wonder if I would’ve been better equipped to handle them if I had been keeping up with my advent calendar daily, instead of saying “No, thank you” and doing most of it on Saturday.
A lesson for the week to come, I suppose.