Yesterday, I got accosted in the preschool parking lot.
‘Tis the season to be jolly ain’t all it’s cracked up to be when the stress of teacher gifts sets in, amiright?? Do you think the songwriter of Deck the Halls had to buy teacher gifts? My guess is no.
I’ll spare you the word-by-word conversation (I reserve that for my oh so lucky husband) and give you the gist. A fellow preschool mom wanted to know every last detail of my plan for gifts. Which teachers I’m buying for, what I’m getting, how much I’m spending. The whole enchilada. And she pressed me in my vagueness even as I was visibly trying to slide into my van and exit the conversation as soon as physically possible. I absolutely knew I was being vague because (1) I wasn’t confident in my own action plan and (2) I knew whatever I decided to purchase, the dollar amount would be far less than I’d like to admit. Look girlfriend, I barely know what my plan is let alone what you should be doing and it’s very subjective so let’s just get on with our morning.
I finally slithered my way out of that conversation and drove to, ironically, purchase teacher gifts. But man I felt horrible. I felt so less than, like my efforts weren’t enough. She made it clear she was planning to spend significantly more than me. And I hated that because of pride and materialism but also because I want to be able to give generously, to show people how much I appreciate them but nine times out of ten feel a complete lack of resources to do so.
Here’s the other scenario that happened this morning at preschool drop-off. A mom I’m a little more chummy with let me know she was dealing with a sinus infection, double ear infection, and her heat hadn’t been working for a couple days. She has a 4 year old son and an 8 month old baby who was covered in snot and I nearly cried thinking about the nightmare she was living.
God prompted me to grab her something, which ultimately was an over-priced order of soup from a local place. But WHATEVER, it was my joy to notice her and hopefully provide for a need – physical, logistical, emotional, any of it. Just for her to feel seen. I saw myself in her – the times I’ve been in over my head – and instantly I was reminded of the sweet friends who have noticed me during those times.
As I was driving around I was reflecting on these interactions - the teacher gift stress scenario and the friend going through the trenches of sickness. I had a fleeting thought that if I didn’t grab soup technically I could put that money towards the gift cards I was planning to get for teachers, which would beef up their value a little bit.
But why? Just to look better? Just to appear more able? Just because that’s what we should do at Christmas?
It got me thinking that maybe we’re all just supposed to love the ones God has put in front of us. We each have a very specific story with joys and hurts and I believe God uses our story to rejoice and mourn with people, to love them because of the love we’ve received. If we all went on loving the exact same people, there’d be a crap ton of people left out of love. If we all loved in the exact same way, we’d fail to meet people’s needs specifically and personally.
God prompted me to love that friend (who really is just an acquaintance that I talk with in the drop-off line and hope she likes me?) and he reminded me that I’m just running the race he’s marked out for me. Staying in my lane this morning meant bringing soup to a friend that is hanging by a thread. Accoster-mom’s lane is loving the heck out of those teachers with a cushy gift card. I don’t need to feel bad or wrong for not doing it all, and neither does she. Together, we’re loving a community.
Let’s stay in our lane always, but especially at Christmas. Let’s make room to notice the people and the needs that aren’t on our gift list. We absolutely cannot do it all and if we try to we’ll be left joyless and stressed and for sure in (more) debt. Let’s do our thing, the giving and the loving that brings us joy maybe even more than the person receiving it.