Many moons ago, when my oldest daughter was in Kindergarten, I took her, along with her two younger siblings, garage saling. It was a beautiful day, and it was a joy to be out and about. I don’t remember looking for anything in particular; however, I soon hit the jackpot.
I came across a sale that had a ton of early childhood education materials. I was stoked! As I looked through the workbooks, visual aids and resource magazines, I began chit-chatting with the woman having the sale. She was a retired first grade teacher, and she and I had a lot in common. She was excited to find someone who was also passionate about teaching, and she gave me lots of helpful suggestions as I looked through her stash. Since the time for the sale was coming to a close, she offered to make me a fantastic deal on enough stuff to fill a couple of banana boxes. I was excited! I had set aside enough curricula and helps to take my kiddos well into their primary years.
As she gave me the total and agreed to take a check, she asked where I taught. I told her that I taught at home. An awkward silence ensued. Her house phone rang, and she ran in to answer it. I made out the check per her instructions.
When she came back, she had her teacher face on. She stood directly in front of me, squared her shoulders, took a deep breath, and told me that she had reconsidered her generous offer (and apparently most of her friendliness) and she was no longer willing to sell me those lovely boxes of resources for the agreed-upon price.
Another awkward silence.
I don’t remember my exact response, but I do remember my mouth hanging open for a bit. The friendliness, excitement, camaraderie…all of them were gone. I felt like the kid who’d been sent to the corner. I gathered up my kids (who had been soooooo good, too!) and loaded them into the van, tore up the check and wondered what in the world just happened. I left the sale with nothing.
Did that lady hate me? I don’t think so. I think she maybe hated what I stood for. She may have felt judged or personally affronted by what I’d chosen for my family. I don’t know for sure. Here’s the thing: As an American, she had every right to refuse to sell me her stuff. She had every right to refuse to offer me a better price than she’d listed. She had the right to do what she did…but did that make her choice right?
I guess it depends on what her personal goals were. If her goal was to make a negative statement in regard to home education, she succeeded. If her goal was to show love and tolerance to her fellow man, she failed. If her goal was to discourage a young stay-at-home mom, she succeeded. If her goal was to get rid of the stuff in her driveway, she failed (miserably).
You see, we can act within our rights and still not do the right thing. We can opt out of showing love, making peace or sharing joy in order to prove our point–well within our rights–and still not make this world one bit better than it was when we got out of bed that morning. We each have the choice to make a difference. We can choose love, forgiveness and respect, or we can choose intolerance and prejudice and ugliness. We don’t have to agree with someone’s lifestyle, political opinion, statement of faith or child-rearing decisions in order to make a positive impact in this world. We just need to accept people where they are, maintain healthy boundaries when necessary and do what is right.
I have occasionally thought about that woman. I wouldn’t recognize her now, and I don’t even remember exactly where she lived. I have wondered, though, if she would make the same choice again. Did she feel good about her decision when she went to bed that night? It doesn’t really matter, but I’ve wondered. I know the regrets of making a bad choice and not being able to make it right. We’ve all done that. This is why it’s so important to do good things while we have the opportunity–to keep our goals in mind. Love goes every direction. To home schoolers and to public school teachers. To bakers and to gays. To dancers and to presidents. To Republicans, to Democrats and even to Libertarians. If the old adage is true that we reap what we sow, maybe it’s time to assess the harvest and see if we’re ready to grow something different.