Next block in the Bible Sampler Quilt project:
Instead of the Bible passage, I want to write about what everyone’s talking about lately: Socialism. It’s a word to be feared, it’s unAmerican. But it’s taking hold, and I could go on about this alarming fact. I will share a memory instead.
I was maybe 8 or 9 years old. My best friend, Carrie*, lived behind me and we’d walk through our back yards and knock on kitchen doors to ask moms if we could come out and play.
Mothers used this leverage to get a chore or two done before allowing us to go, so there was some waiting involved. But then there’d be hours of freedom, making clubhouses and holding club meetings. We both had a younger sister, which completed the membership.
One Saturday, Carrie came outside with a plan. Summer was coming, so it was time to buy swimsuits. She had asked her mother if she could get a bikini, and was flatly refused her request. This made Carrie want a two piece with even more longing. Her plan was to raise the money by selling lemonade and buying the bikini herself. She proposed that we do this all together, and the three of us agreed with enthusiasm.
My naive childhood mind filled in the blank: We will be splitting the proceeds evenly so everyone will come out with a new bikini. I didn’t really want a bikini; the thought hadn’t occurred to me that it was an important thing to want until Carrie brought it up. Any ways, my mother would probably buy me one if one was requested. But in the spirit of the corps, I threw myself into the day. We assembled koolaid pitchers and Dixie cups and ice from both our kitchens, and worked under a hot sun all day long.
The front of Carrie’s house faced a busy street, so business was good. As I worked, I tried to imagine the bikini I’d be getting, tried to build enthusiasm. Or maybe I’d spend my money on something else. At the end of the day, I seem to remember that we made around fourteen dollars, which Carrie quickly took and pocketed, thanking us for helping her get her bikini.
I was in shock. I can’t remember my reaction. Knowing my childhood self like I do, I’m pretty sure I was stunned into silence. I think I just let her walk back into her house with all the cash. I do remember that she didn’t get a bikini. Eight year olds don’t realize that they still need their mothers to drive them to the store to complete the transaction, so she probably couldn’t overcome that obstacle.
But the lesson I learned was long remembered. It was more valuable than the lost funds which may or may not have been rebalanced if I had complained to my mother, who may or may not have made a phone call to her mother.
It was my first experience with socialism.
I had experienced sacrificial giving before then. Mom had us five kids purge our clothes and toys on a regular basis. Living in a very small house with grandma too, I can understand why space was at a premium. She was a member of the Junior Women’s League, and they were always holding events for the less fortunate. One year before Christmas she had my sister and I give away our matching favorite dolls which were nearly new. It was a hard thing to do, but it was good for our hearts to be squeezed a bit so that our generosity meant something to us.
(Maybe that’s why I wasn’t a “doll person”. I learned that I couldn’t grow attached. But I digress.)
Back to socialism.
It is a good thing to be giving of your time, talent, and treasures. But there’s a crucial difference. This generosity comes from your own volition, and you have the power of choice in your giving. God loves a cheerful giver.
Socialism takes that power of choice away from you. And to add insult to injury, it may choose to give to entities that oppose your own moral code. The money you worked so hard for may be spent to further agendas that are antithetical to your biblical values.
And it saps the esprit des corps right out of you.
When you’ve felt that deflation, that betrayal, that shame for your shortsightness, you learn. You learn that, whenever possible, the power to keep control of your time, talent, and treasure is important to your mental well being. The attitude of gratitude and all that.
Lesson learned: Be generous, be kind, but be smart. You don’t owe anyone anything, but you can give from a place of altruism and good will. That feels so much better than a place of guilt and shame.
Bonus lesson: Let it go. But should one’s reaction be “stunned into silence?“
The refrain from “The Gambler” popped into my head. “But it’s alright now, I learned my lesson well. Seems you can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.”
*I changed the name to protect the “innocent”. She moved away shortly after that, so we are no longer best friends. We wrote a few letters, then lost touch. And remember, choosing best friends had a lot to do with ease of access. Friendships tended to be created with regard to walking distance between houses.