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Monday, March 25, 2019

A new low......

I have hit an all time new low. This is what I realized Saturday evening as I was half in and half out of one of those clothing donation bins in a church parking lot, fishing for a bag of clothes. What circumstances brought me to the point where I "needed" to do such a thing? I'm glad you asked; allow me to explain: Kohl's was having a pretty good sale and my 20% off coupon was upgraded to 30% off.

I guess that's not clear enough. OK, well, Since this was such a good deal my wife and daughter decided it was a good time to refresh my daughter's wardrobe. Mind you - for a guy, this is page 6 kind of stuff; interesting but not something to plan your weekend around. Not so much for a teenage girl, though. This is more headline news material. I have to say, Maria is not your average teenage girl; she really doesn't enjoy shopping as much as other teenage girls seem to. Still this was an event. In anticipation of this happiness, Maria went through her wardrobe and collected a bag of clothes to give to the poor. What can I say, she's got a good heart.

I decided to skip the festivities and stay home; preferring to cook dinner and visit with my good friend Johnny Walker instead. Fast forward a couple of hours; Maria walks in and slams the door. She makes a beeline for the upstairs. As she passes I ask a typically lame dad question;

"So, did you get any clothes?"
"Yes!" (Was that an angry tone?) "And no good kjdsjklk eiu9 nkdskjh ewdoixzcm!"
(I didn't get that last part because she was already halfway up the stairs.)

I brace myself; they were probably in the middle of one of those Oscar worthy teenage  dramatic performances. And it was such a pleasant evening, too.

Rose follows shortly after and explains: It seems that Maria, in all her excitement donated the wrong bag of clothes! An understandable mistake: they were both in Kohl's bags. (Lesson #1)

Poor girl. Rose handled the whole situation gracefully, treating it as one of those life lessons. Not Maria: she was beating herself up pretty badly in the car. They went back and tried to retrieve it, but those clothes bins are designed to prevent donations from moving in the opposite direction from which they came, so there was nothing to show for all their trouble. Maria went ahead and donated her old clothes, I imagine in tears.

Life has given me plenty of material to share over dinner, and there was no shortage of stories to recant of my own personal (colossal) mistakes. One or two of them actually brought a smile to her face. The message I was trying to send without actually saying it is that we all make mistakes, and that these are good times to appreciate what is really important in life. (Lesson #2) I promise her I'll see what I can do after dinner, and in the worst case scenario we can just go back to Kohl's and try to recoup her losses.

So this is how it came to be that I was in a church parking lot in the twilight hours of a beautiful spring day, half in and half out of a clothing bin fishing for clothes. Armed with a six foot ladder, a flashlight, my mothers old "reachy, grabby thing" and brute force determination, I set myself to the task at hand.

The first hurdle; the door. It's designed the same way mailboxes are; when it's open to accept your donation, it's closed to the bin. When you close the door, it opens inside and the donation drops in. Crap. But I'm undeterred - I am a dad with an upset teenage daughter. I sense that there is an element of self worth rolled into this experience, so I am resolved to give it all that I have.

I set up my ladder and assess the situation; if you open the door half-way, it's open to the bin half way. Just enough room to squeeze  my head and one arm. I have a look; it's too dark in there. I have to use my left hand to hold the flashlight in just the right way because I can't fit my head AND both arms in there. I'll leave it to your imagination, because I don't think that I can describe how awkward this must have looked, standing on a six foot latter with my but sticking out so I can get the right angle to see all the way inside.

Apparently, some very generous person donated a couple of 30 gallon hefty trash bags full of clothing just after Maria made her donation. I can't see any Kohl's bags. I try to move the Hefty bag but as you can imaging it was heavy, and I'm in an awkward position to begin with. So now I have to stick my right foot all the way out to leverage my weight in order to act as a counter balance against the weight of the bag. Only now, the full weight of the door is on my head, and it's getting to be too much.

"Maria, can you hold the door for me?"
I extricate myself from the jaws of humiliation, to find that Maria is nowhere in sight. She's hiding around the back for fear that the cops are going to come and arrest us.

"OK sweetheart, I need your help right now; if the cops come I'll explain everything to them. I'm sure they'll understand."

Back to the jaws of humiliation. After some effort, I manage to move the Hefty bags; I see the two Kohl's bags and I am able to retrieve Maria's new clothes. I look at her eyes: relief. Joy. I see too, I think - the knowledge that she is ever so much more important to me than a bag of clothes, or a silly little thing like my own pride, and that there's nothing I wouldn't do if she needed me to. I think I have given each of my children this message at one time or another. I hope I have, because it's true for each of them.

Yes, I reached a new low, diving through a clothing bin for a bag of clothes. In a more important way though, I feel as though I have hit a great high. What a feeling it is to show by example how important a person is to you, to not get upset at a costly mistake but to tell them in deed that they are loved more than money, more than material things and that I'm willing to risk possibly humbling circumstances in order to show them how loved they are. (Lesson #3)

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