Before I traveled to Florida, I was happily navigating through Walmart in search of stickers for my grandchildren. Pushing through the women’s clothing section to get to the party aisle, I was thinking of my 5 little ones and especially of baby number 6 (who now has a name and face) when suddenly, out of nowhere, my own mother’s voice rang out in my head. “Margaret, shame on you. Pick that up.”
I’d just wheeled my cart around a grey fleece hoodie lying on the Walmart floor. Mom’s reprimand prompted a memory of decades before when I was a self-centered 15 year old. She and I were often at odds during those days, but we found ourselves on a shopping trip together at Wieboldt’s department store, searching for an outfit I needed but didn’t want.
Wandering amongst the circular racks of clothes, we came to a dress lying on the floor. Without breaking stride, Mom bent over, picked it up and hung it back on the rack. My inappropriate thought was, “They pay people to do that.” But I kept it to myself, to escape a lecture.
Despite my self-absorbed mindset, Mom’s good deed left a mark that lasted 50 years. She hadn’t picked up the dress to teach me a lesson or earn credit with me or anybody else. She did it because she knew someone had to do it, and her thought was it might as well be her. She could help, so she did. It was the right thing to do.
Knowing the right thing to do and doing it, not for credit, not to impress, and not in response to being told to do it, is a good way to live. I would imagine it’s very satisfying. Some people go through life trying to do as little as possible, working to tweak every set of circumstances to their advantage. Others not only live to be helpful, but it doesn’t even cross their minds to step over the clothing.
What is God’s view? Although he’s always overseeing the events on earth, his eyes scanning the crowds, I think he’s watching us especially carefully when we’re alone. How do we act when no one’s looking? Do we cut corners? Stretch the truth? Eat/drink/watch what we shouldn’t? Waste time/money? Do the bare minimum? Maneuver the shopping cart around the garment on the floor?
If we pictured a literal Jesus at our elbow, joining in on whatever we were doing, would we act differently? No doubt.
I turned around, picked up the hoodie, and hung it on the rack.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)