A bad memory hangs in my closet

Kathleen Giffin


26th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 28, 2014
Ezekiel 18.25-28 | Psalm 25 | Philippians 2.1-11 | Matthew 21.28-32
September 22, 2014

Somewhere in the back of my closet is a small cream coloured sweater, the kind of thing you would wear over a summer dress to cover your shoulders if it is cool out. I've never worn it; yet there are certain memories attached to it that are uncomfortable to recall.

I purchased it in a consignment store in Calgary a few years ago. I was there on one of my periodic "have to buy new clothes for work" shopping trips. I had gathered up quite a number of items, all with good prices, and was in the last consideration of what I was going to take and what I would leave behind when a new customer came into the small shop.

Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. -

'Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.'

Philippians 2.4

She was looking for a light sweater or shawl that she could wear with a certain dress for a wedding she was going to that weekend. I could tell she was stressed by the search, whether it was time or money she was short of, or whether she just couldn't find what she needed, I wasn't sure. But I knew she was feeling the pressure.

She described what she was looking for, and the clerk said, yes, they did have just the thing for her, but when she went to get it from the rack the other clerk told her it was in the dressing room with me.

They came and asked if I was going to buy it; I don't remember if I had already decided to take it. I do remember that as soon as I said yes, I was going to buy it, that I knew I was doing wrong.

The woman left the shop without the sweater, disappointed of course, certainly more stressed, and I purchased the little sweater that I never wore.

Many times over the years since that day I have regretted my choice. By the time I left the shop I was wishing I could do it over. She would have had the gift of a day made a little easier; I would have had the gift of being a part of that. Instead, a bad memory hangs in my closet.

Paul writes, in his letter to the Philippians, "Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others." Clearly I didn't chose with those words in mind the day I took the sweater for myself. It was only my interests that were of concern to me. They weren't even particularly strong interests; I didn't much care for the sweater, and I certainly didn't have a real need for it.

While I learned a lesson that day, I still have a long way to go in my efforts to apply Paul's words to my life. There is a shift required in my thinking, away from a focus on what pleases me and what I prefer, toward what pleases God and serves his people, what serves in the mission of love.

(Kathleen Giffin kgif@telus.net)