43: The Rain Jacket

43: The Rain Jacket

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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The Rain Jacket

No one has ever become poor by giving.

~Anne Frank

I was not a shopaholic. Yet, duplication abounded in my tiny one-bedroom apartment and somehow I never got around to purging the excess. One night, I remember Patrick, my then fiancé, pointed this out while I poked through the closet, coming up empty handed. “I have nothing to wear tonight,” I claimed.

“Really?” he returned. His playful look of disbelief sent me back to look again. He was right. “Nothing to wear” doesn’t make a lot of sense coming from someone with so much to choose from.

Months later, after we married, the subject of clutter clearly needed to be addressed. Our abundant shower and wedding gifts needed places to call home. The purging process was really necessary, yet still I fought it.

I remember one day Patrick questioned why I had two rain jackets. They were very alike and both did the job effectively. One was red and the other green. “I know,” I said sheepishly. “I can’t decide. I love them both and I just can’t decide.”

Months later, on a rainy afternoon, my indecision was defeated in the blink of an eye. It was the same day I was wallowing in self-defeat. I had just been “downsized” at a job where I had worked incredibly hard for four years. I had given my heart and soul to that job in a way that had pushed out other important things in my life. In the end, the crushing weight of the way I was dismissed wounded me. Instead of accepting a demoralizing three-month descent into part-time work, I handed my boss my resignation in the most polite language I could muster.

I drove like a zombie from work to home that day in the rain. The irony was not lost on me that I was living a life that was full of “stuff,” yet feeling so empty. Just then, as I pulled off the exit ramp to my street, I saw a man cowering in the rain, drenched in a T-shirt and grungy muddied jeans. He held a sign made from a pizza box that said “HELP ME.”

Had I seen this man many other times and been preoccupied? Other drivers had surely passed him by today without a second look. My heart hurt for him. Glancing over at my passenger seat, I saw both of my rain jackets. The universe was on the loudspeaker and I understood.

Without a second to lose before the light turned green, I rolled down my window and handed the man my beloved hooded green rain jacket. I just barely caught the look of gratitude in his eyes before the cars beeping behind me forced me to move on. But I saw him mouth the words “thank you” before wriggling into the weatherproof garment and pulling up the hood.

As I drove away I thought about how that jacket had kept me warm and dry in the mountains of Colorado, on family vacations, canoe trips, and once when I stood in a long winding line at a concert. Now I prayed that my jacket would shelter him from not only that day’s rain, but also perhaps many more days to come. I knew without question that he would value the jacket far more than I had.

I had never been so thankful for something I gave up. Seeing that man made me feel ashamed at my own self-pity. I had a roof over my head, clothes to wear and many ways to rebound from my current misfortune. I knew when my last paycheck arrived from my job that I had savings to fall back on, and my husband was poised to help me figure out the rest.

We sometimes count our blessings in things. The truth is one of the greatest blessings we have is our own ability to look beyond ourselves.

~Leah Shearer Noonan

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