I had a short, sharp reality check the other day, and it took me totally by surprise.
DD3 and I had been shopping, visited the local book fair and had just stopped at a food shop to pick up a cheap snack for our lunch. I had one large tote bag (full) over my shoulder and was carrying three other bags full of books, DD3 was carrying another bag of books. We had just come out of the shop clutching our snacks in paper bags as well, and as we were walking down the street, there was a homeless person selling The Big Issue magazine. I usually make a point of buying a magazine from these sellers, who are are doing their best to get themselves out of being homeless/vulnerably housed by selling magazines rather than begging.
The thought did cross my mind that I should buy one, but I dismissed it so very easily, thinking about the fact I couldn't easily access my purse, I was tired, we only just had enough money to get the bus home anyway and I didn't relish the idea of walking home with all these bags of shopping. All feeble excuses so I would not have to put myself to any physical effort or financial loss.........
I walked on, continuing my conversation with DD3. After we had walked about ten yards down the street, she turned to me quietly and said:
"I've never ever known you not buy a Big Issue from a seller, Mum. Did you already buy a copy when you came up to town earlier in the week?"
Talk about out the mouths of babes and sucklings ! I looked at her and said honestly that I had thought about it briefly, but if we did buy a copy, we would have to walk home with all these bags (about 45 mins walk). She just looked at me and said that she was happy to walk home. I was so proud of her, and so woefully ashamed of my own selfishness, laziness and greed.
I unloaded all my shopping on the floor and she stood guard over our mini-mountain of bags so I could scramble for my purse and find the requisite amount of money for the magazine, and a small bit extra to give to the seller, as I normally do. The vendor greeted me warmly and was very grateful for my purchase. I returned, brandishing the magazine and saw DD3's face light up with pleasure. We picked up our bags and made our way home, tired but happy.
What made my heart sing was that my 12 year old daughter had compassion on that man, wanted us to help him and she was not afraid to respectfully tackle me for *not* helping. When my behaviour was not up to what she considered to be my normal standard, she reminded me about it, and that took courage on her part.
I am proud of her, and glad that she stood firm in her belief that we should help him, even if we did have to walk home with all those bags rather than riding the bus in comfort. I am keeping that copy of the magazine as a reminder to myself how easy it is to slip back into meanness, laziness and selfishness, rather than put myself out to help someone.
I'm glad it is Lent; I need the discipline and the reminders.