An ancient historical text is littered with references to charity, extolling the virtues of giving to others. If read as a blueprint for our happy co-existence, the second part of the whole group of manuscripts could be viewed as an instruction that success can only be achieved by the outpouring of love from one to another.
At 02:00 hours, I was awoken by the sudden recollection of the name Zacchaeus. An irritating chap who, in the story, had shimmied up a tree to get a better look at proceedings. A tax collector, or Inland Revenue Inspector, this annoying little man was reviled by everyone, yet even he was shown to have worth within society. We all should give what is due. Death and taxes, the inescapable duo.
Harriet has been working locally at a Residential Care Home, which means she passes our home to and from her night shift. Joy is unconfined (they’ve let her out again) and we have the pleasure of seeing her enter our home and raid the fridge or freezer depending on whether she is going to, or coming from, work.
This morning being no exception, on entering our kitchen I am greeted by our eldest child scoffing cereal, just to enable her to physically reach her own home a kilometre distant.
“Dad, you’re well fit and skinny” she quips as I make my way across the kitchen to the toaster.
“Well, he feels like a fat Ray Winstone, from a film we watched recently, called The Sweeney” retorted Charlotte, who is in full Herbalife flow, extolling the virtues of healthy living with a shake for breakfast, another for lunch and a healthy evening meal.
Alfie and I have both recently received new t-shirts. Alfie enters wearing his new clothes, looking fit and trim in black top and jeans. His lean 6ft frame showing off his new clothes like I imagine mine look on me. As Charlotte and I take Ruby for a walk I ask if she likes my new top. “Yes,” she says, “but not for going out in.” I gasp in horror and suck in my expanding waistline! We are out!
Back in the kitchen, I place four meagre sized, brown, nutty loaf slices into the toaster and sink the timed plungers of graduated burning.
I’m not fat. But I do feel a tad heavy. I’m not happy with this state of affairs. Whereas ten years ago I was able to lift a coffin to shoulder with apparent ease and convey said coffin over rough terrain to a graveside without a murmur of discontent, today, as the years have passed and age has withered, my general level of fitness has succumbed to that incongruous midlife spread. And yes, I do like a little bit of butter on my toast.
The toaster pops.
“Can I have a slice?” asks Harriet, having emptied her bowl of all but the dregs of milk. “With Lurpak butter, as I don’t have that at home”.
I don’t even argue. I want to, but I don’t. I don’t even think she wants a slice, it’s more that she wants to see how I react to her demands and lack of manners! I scrape some ‘slide’ over the golden brown surface and hand it to her.
“Thanks,” she responds.
Out comes the tape measure. Having spent her life since the age of 13 on catwalks and fashion modelling assignments, now at 22, out of all of us, is most conscious of her appearance. ‘Vanity, vanity, all is vanity’ I muse, as she takes her own measurements with the tape. Wrapping it around various parts of her twig-like body, while I’m attempting to not lose any more toast to the bitch… Ruby is ever-present where tasty comestibles are concerned.
Measurements taken, she declares that she is “totally unacceptable”. Totally unacceptable as a UK size 8. Is that a size 4 in America? If Harriet’s weight or size is totally unacceptable, then what does that make me?
As we are all unique creatures with individual strengths and weaknesses. When we start comparing ourselves against others or against set standards, we run the risk of dissatisfaction and disappointment. We also look to others for acceptance or praise in our achievements. A worldly agreement or standard that we conform to, or excel in, whatever we judge ourselves by. Our inner happiness is qualified and scored against a chart that is conditional and extreme throughout.
If for one brief moment we could stop and stand and still the fleeing tide of time and from the outside of our existence look in on what we, as humanity as a whole, have become. To be reminded of that ancient text which asks ‘if I, when my child asks for bread, do I instead give them a stone, or if asking for fish, do I give them a snake, or rather than an egg, do I give them a scorpion?’ Should I not give so much more and better than that which has initially been asked for?
Although Harriet has plenty enough money to feed herself, if she asks for a slice of toast, it surely isn’t that much of an effort for me to give it to her. And although the Lurpack butter does nothing for her waistline, if it’s something that she likes, who am I to refuse her that? Harriet heads off to her own home where her bed is beckoning, happy and content.
I scoff the remaining three slices before anyone else demands of me that last and greatest slice…well, I had smothered it in honey!
Perhaps in life, we should give more. Give to those who ask of us. Give, even when not asked. Give, not expecting reward. Give, without counting the cost. When we stop living life worrying what others think of our waistline or abilities, learning to share freely, will we not then be free to enjoy life’s rich tapestry in all its fullness?
Carry on regardless!