The Shopping Trip

The Shopping Trip

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Create Your Best Future

The Shopping Trip

Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.

~Edwin Hubbell Chapin

“Jane, hurry and get your coat. We’re going to the store.” I ran to do as my father instructed. A shopping trip with Dad was a rare treat. He traveled a great deal of the time, and I cherished the unexpected opportunity to be alone with him.

Once in the car, I asked, “Where are we going?”

Dad only smiled. “You’ll see.”

To my surprise, we didn’t take the usual turn to the area’s one department store. (This was in the pre-mall era.) Instead, we turned down an alley where small row houses lined the road. Dad parked the car, got out, and walked to the front door of the first house on the street. Within a few minutes, he returned with Connor, a boy from our church.

I tried to hide my disappointment. I had wanted my father to myself. Now it looked as though I would have to share him with someone else.

“Hi, Connor,” I mumbled, barely able to keep the resentment from my voice.

“Hi,” he mumbled back. He looked as uncomfortable as I felt.

Dad drove to the store. Once inside, he steered us to the boys’ clothing section. My indignation bubbled over. Not only did I have to share my dad, I had to endure looking at boring clothes for boys.

“Connor is going to receive his confirmation tomorrow,” Dad said. “He’ll need a suit to wear for the occasion.”

Connor looked with wonder at the row of clothes.

Dad must have noticed my stiff posture for he drew me aside.

“We have an opportunity to help someone in need,” he said in a quiet voice.

Finally, I understood and was ashamed at my lack of compassion. Connor came from a family of modest means where his single mother worked to provide for her four children. I guessed that Sunday clothes had no place in the budget.

With Dad’s help, Connor chose a dark suit. I watched as Dad gently encouraged Connor to add a white shirt, tie, dress shoes, and socks. Connor’s eyes grew wide as the purchases mounted.

“Th . . . thank you,” he stuttered when we returned him home.

Dad smiled broadly. “You’re welcome. And remember, this is our secret. Only your mother knows.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Thanks for coming with me,” Dad said once Connor had gathered up his bags and run to the front door. “What if we stop and get a chocolate milkshake?”

I nodded, but without my customary eagerness for my favorite treat. I had a lot to think about. Other things began to make sense. I recalled holiday dinners where the table was filled with widows and others who were likely to be alone.

“Why,” I had asked Dad at one time, “do we always have to invite those ladies to dinner? They never invite us to their houses.”

Dad’s answer has remained with me. “It’s easy to invite those who can return the favor. Taking care of those who can’t do something for us in return is the hallmark of love.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but in those few words my father had given me the greatest definition of charity I would ever hear.

~Jane Choate

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