A little more than a week ago, my husband and I were at Earth Fare, the small organic grocery store near our home.
Truth be told, as much as we like the healthy products at the grocery, we like it just as much because it's small (oversized supermarkets can be tiring!), it's nearby (about a six minute round trip--so not only do we save time, but we're putting less exhaust in the air to get there than to the closest supermarket), and its staff members are very friendly.
And in fact, as we checked out the very friendly cashier held out an array of envelopes and said "we're giving coupons to our customers; each one is for something different, so good luck!"
I took one of the envelopes, and expected perhaps a buck off from the dairy section, or a buy one-get one free deal.
Instead... the coupon I happened to select was for $40 off a minimum $80 purchase. Suddenly, as the cashier did a little happy dance on my behalf and exclaimed, "you picked a good one!" I felt a little like Charlie, from Roald Dahl's wonderful Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
During the week, I spent probably far too much time, though, thinking about that coupon.
First, I felt a little guilty. This wasn't a case of couple-with-limited-means has their holiday rescued by a valuable coupon . Buying groceries isn't an issue for us--and we know we are very lucky, because it is for many people.
I thought, perhaps we should use the extra money to buy food to give to a food bank? But we already donate during the holiday season as well as year round.So this also wasn't a case of us acting like, well, Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, and keeping all of our blessings and earnings to ourselves.
I finally asked myself: "Why are you having trouble simply accepting and enjoying this unexpected little bonus?"
As adults, we know well the saying "'tis better to give than receive." And in so many ways, that's true. It IS important to be mindful of sharing our blessings, of giving to others--both those we know and those we don't, of not taking what we have for granted.
But I think it's also important to balance that with being gracious about accepting and enjoying the blessings that come our way, whether earned or through a happy happenstance like a valuable coupon. Getting, and enjoying, bounty and good times is as much a part of life as giving them, and helps shore us up against those inevitable lean times.
As Thomas Merton, the monk, writer and mystic, once stated: "What do I mean by loving ourselves properly? I mean first of all, desiring to live, accepting life as a very great gift and a great good, not because of what it gives us, but because of what it enables us to give to others."
So, when my husband and I returned to Earth Fare the following week with our coupon, I decided to let myself be in the moment and enjoy our little gift to ourselves--using the coupon to get some necessities, but also some treats we might otherwise not have enjoyed. Counter Culture Coffee (which sources beans directly from farmers around the world.) Chocolate truffles. Holland Kroon Gouda.
And frankly, it was fun. We took our time, and we took turns picking out treats and contemplating and being thankful for our blessings.
What do you think? Do we need to, as Merton says, 'love ourselves properly,' and accept and enjoy gifts that come our way? Do you think doing so helps us prepare ourselves to, as he puts it, 'give to others?'