Four years ago, we became a one-car family–by choice. I’d prayed for a few months about this before broaching the idea with my husband, hoping he would desire to save money and gas and to be intentional about going places together as a family by owning just one vehicle.
This means we need to be intentional about a lot, not just about going places together. Organizing car pools, choosing to walk or bike certain places, saying “no” to activities that would make life too hectic, and often waiting to get things done…This week, I’ve been waiting to buy groceries. My husband’s car pool partner has been out of pocket, and although I could shop after my sons’ bedtime, I benefit more from using that time to exercise, read to myself, or just enjoy the quiet. I’ve been making do with what we already had to eat at home.
One of the items we’ve missed this week is bananas. When they’re fresh and still green, my younger son will eat 2 a day. I use bananas in smoothies. We go through bunches of them, and we’ve felt their absence.
Missing bananas now reminds me of missing bananas when I was younger–and of the lessons I can learn from them.
For 2 years of college, I lived on campus. At my university, on-campus students were required to buy a 5-day meal plan but had the option to buy a plan including weekend meals. I opted not to do that. Even though I planned to spend many weekends on campus, I knew that occasionally I’d go home to visit–and I didn’t want my family to have to pay for unused meals. I had earned quite a bit in scholarship money, but scholarships didn’t cover everything. I worked doing childcare at a church, but most of that money paid my phone bills. Homesick, I called home frequently during my first semester away.
This resulted in multiple hungry weekends for me on campus. I rarely had spending money–remember those phone bills?–and tried to feed myself with whatever I’d brought back from my last visit home. One day I felt desperate and asked a friend living in the same “residence hall” (we were instructed not to call them “dorms”) to bring me a banana from the cafeteria when she returned from lunch.
I realized this might be blurring the lines of right and wrong a little. We were allowed to take food out of the cafeteria, but I didn’t think the university would look kindly upon a student taking food out for somebody else. Just this once, I thought.
When I found my friend after lunch, she informed me that she’d forgotten the banana. I knew she’d intended to get it; I believed her when she said she’d just forgotten. I was disappointed–and hungry. I made myself smile and replied, “That’s OK.” Give her grace. That was the lesson: Allow my friends the freedom to make mistakes, to disappoint me. Give them grace. I need it, too.
Years later, I ended my senior year of college by house-sitting for a couple I knew and loved. I had 2 weeks of school left, and I’d (predictably) run out of money and, mostly, food. This same friend who’d agreed to get me a banana years before had just experienced a gruesome break-up with her boyfriend. She needed comfort. She dropped by the house where I was staying and sat down on the couch, sobbing. She cried as I’d never seen her cry before. She was also slightly shaking and confessed that she hadn’t been eating well. I offered her one of the few things I had–a banana. She ate it while I folded laundry then pointed out a bruise on the banana about halfway down. She asked if I minded if she threw it out.
Had I been eating the banana, I would’ve eaten it bruise and all. But I’d given it to her–she could choose to eat it however she liked. So I said “OK,” and she tossed it away. We talked a bit more; then she drove back to campus. Give her grace. I needed to realize that my friend needed compassion more than I needed a banana–and more than I needed her to appreciate my offer of a banana. That was the lesson: Give without asking for anything back, including appreciation.
I’ll pick up some bananas this weekend, hoping I’ll be ready to share those–and to share grace–whenever the opportunity arises.