Last Christmas, I drove to Oklahoma to visit my relatives and celebrate the holiday. At a rest stop, I filled up my mug with chai tea, then stretched my legs and browsed through the gift shop.
On a swivel display, several colorful magnets stood out – one in particular. It was a pansy, the purple kind with the yellow center, the pansy that Oklahoma grows so well in the early spring, a pansy like the ones in Mom’s flower garden.
I knew Mom would love it. She could put it on her fridge next to the magnets that held pictures of the grandkids in their various growth stages.
But I hesitated. It was $2.50 for a tiny pansy magnet. Was it really worth that? No, probably not.
I decided to think about it and maybe buy it on the return trip, then mail it to Mom or give it to her for Mother’s Day.
But I should have listened to that inner nudge. I should have said, “To heck with my stupid budget and trying to live on pennies. Buy it now while you can.”
But I didn’t listen. In fact, I drove on down the road, sipped my chai tea and forgot about that magnet until four months later when I drove to Oklahoma for the Easter break. I stopped at the same rest stop, this time refilling my cup with iced tea, stretching my legs and browsing through the gift shop.
But of course, the magnets no longer decorated the display. No pansies, no flowers, no pretty magnets of any kind.
As I plan for Christmas vacation this year, I still kick my inward self for not buying that magnet for Mom. I know I will stop at the same rest stop and buy a cup of hot chai tea. I will stretch my legs and browse through the gift shop, because that is what I do on my trips to Oklahoma.
But even if the gift shop replaced the magnets, Mom no longer lives in her house. She has no refrigerator in her assisted living apartment. No place to put magnets that would have given her a few months of pleasure for just $2.50.
This year I will remind myself that gifts to others are never wasted. Life is short and it sometimes changes drastically from one day to the next. Although it’s important to keep a budget, a giving heart is even more important – especially for those we love whose time on earth is limited.
So…lesson to self. Next time, buy the stupid magnet or the plastic toy or a drink for a fellow traveler. Be a giver, because it’s easier to spend a bit of money than to forgive yourself.