Monday, November 23, 2009

"What are you going to do with it?"

Tonight Beve and I ran a few errands, leaving our three grown-adult offspring to clean the kitchen after I used every pot and pan available.  Ok, that's a lie.  The other night, during his 'craigslist devotional'--his-just-before sleep perusing of the area's online 'want ads,' and the numerous emails he sends off to ask about things like "laquered coffee table" or "willing to swap my Mazda Miata for a pick-up" (he had a three month romance with this one, only ending last week, when the Miata man/horse trader dumped Beve for a better pick-up. Dang!  Not that Beve could quite fit into the Miata, but I could.  I absolutely could!), and most recently, a "Free crock-pot" which Beve intended to send back to school with SK, until he brought it home last night and told her she could have ours.  This is really the luxury of crock pots, so I just had to use it today.  Made my 'famous' (why do people call their recipes famous?  I mean, no one but my family and those I've cooked for actually even know this as 'mine') Mexican chicken soup.  T-A-S-T-Y!  My point is, there wasn't really much for the kids to clean up.

So we ran our errands, which I'd put off until someone could go with me, because I put out my back the other day doing something really strenuous, like bending over to unplug my new short-arm sewing machine (another craigslist find).  Instant spasm, and now I'm walking like I'm Tim Conway.  Or one of Beve's parents.  Bent over and hardly lifting my feet.  Wincing with every step.  Gotta love it.  But I'm just about finished with a quilt top I'm making for the Dump's younger son, one made solely with batiks.  It's gorgeous, if I do say so myself.  But I needed one final fabric for the wide border.  Went to the local chain fabric store, which I tend not to frequent that often.  Supporting local economies and all, you know. But after hours, it's the only choice.

Anyway, I found the fabric I wanted, took it to the cutting table, and, as ALWAYS, at fabric stores, the woman cutting the fabric asked, "What are you going to do with it?"  I'm not kidding. Every fabric cutter asks this question, one way or another. After I told her and walked away, I began thinking what it would be like if the checker at the grocery store, as they swipe your artichokes, toilet paper and fish oil, and place them into the bag along with your marshmellows and gravy mix, asked, "So, what are you making?"  "A science project," is the only possible response. (I actually thought of a different answer, but decided against it here, so you don't think my mind is full of potty humor!) What if they actually asked the sixteen-year-old girl carefully concealing her Kotex under neath a people magazine, two packs of gum and three bags of peanut m&ms, "What do you need these for?"  Can you imagine?  Mostly in that situation, it's young attractive men those girls have to stand in front of, checking out their stuff.  Completely embarrassed.  Even if I'd carefully scoped the situation and stood in the line with the older gray-haired woman, by the time I reached my turn, she'd gone on break and had been replaced with some good-looking college boy.  Those boys always turned their heads away as if they didn't see me, let alone see the box they were holding.  Yep, no such conversations happening in that line.  Or if you go to the Macy's home store to buy pillows...can you imagine being asked, "What are you going to do with these?"  "I'm going to put my head on them. Sleep on them, sweat on them, drool on them until I have to come back--a year or so from now--and buy some more."  Yep, this would be a good answer.

Or clothing stores--"Why are you buying that sweater?"  "I'm going to wear it/ give it to my daughter."  But really what this question would make me think--in any other store than a fabric store--"why do you want to know?  Don't you want me to buy it?"  We assume the right to buy things.  Whatever things we want, anytime we want, without having to explain it to anyone.

But across the world there are places where people are always asked why they are buying things.  Or only allowed such purchases, even if they have the money--so many times a week, because quantities are limited.  About 15 years ago, my sister, the Dump, lived with her spouse and small son, in Uzbekistan for a year.  My parents went to visit them for several weeks over the Christmas holidays.  And many days, their prime occupation was trying to buy food for the family. Just enough for a single day.  They'd go to this store for bread, but it'd be gone, then to another, until they found it, then off to another part of the city to find milk, and so on.  It was truly a full-time job.  And excruciating for these Westerners who were so accustomed to buying whatever they wanted whenever they wanted.  For no particular reason, either. Yet, in many places, my sister and her family's experience is the norm.  Trying to find food is the only thing, the everything for people.  And if they find it, and have the money for it, are used to having to justify their needs.  Let alone wants.  Maybe there's no such thing as wants.  Want is a luxury they've never known.

So walking out of that fabric store tonight, I thought of how much we take for granted that we can want things.  That we don't even differentiate very often between needs and wants.  That fabric I bought?  Not a need.  But I wanted it, am happy with it.  A conversation I had today with my baby brother came to mind. I'd told him "Our God shall supply all your needs."  That's how the verse goes.  Not "all your wants."  We can't expect God to supply our wants, though because He loves exceedingly abundantly, beyond all that we ask or think, He does bless us with our wants.  However, He is in the business of caring for our needs.  Of caring for those needs more than we do. And--and this is the salient point--He knows what our needs are.  He knows how little those needs are. Less than we think, when it comes down to it.  We could do with so much less. Perhaps we should always be asked this question--"what are you going to do with it?"  If we ask God for something, maybe it would help to hear Him asking this back.

What do we need?  And--what are we going to do with what we've been given?   If we're given it, what are we going to do with it?  Extend the Kingdom?  Bless others?  Or simply grow fatter ourselves.

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