My fashion consultant was lurking somewhere outside the dressing room door. For over fifty years, she has tactfully resolved my mistakes of choice and I have been the better for it. She knows her stuff and resists purchasing anything that doesn’t meet her standards.
I’m not a gambling man, but I once won a ten dollar bet with my teenage son. We were sitting in lounge chairs in a women’s dress shop watching his mother screech hangers down the metal rod they were suspended from. Screech, screech, screech resounded as she flipped through styles and sizes hurriedly. I have accused her of operating on auto pilot sometimes, not even looking. All over the store other women intent on finding value, added to the racket.
When she finally looked our way, arms covered with selections, she smiled and headed for the dressing rooms.
“I’ll bet you five dollars your mother doesn’t buy anything,” I told my son.
“You’re on,” he said. “Look at all those threads she’s carrying.”
“Wait and see, and get your money out.”
After a bit she headed back to the racks empty handed. “Still looking,” she called out.
“I don’t believe it,” Ed said.
“Well son, I know your mother. I’ll be surprised if she buys anything today. But, if she does it will look good on her and it will be at a bargain price.”
After a while, she headed to the dressing rooms carrying another load. She paused, holding up several items for us to see; we vigorously nodded our approval. Off she went.
“Double or nothing,” I proposed.
“That’s easy money,” Ed said. “You’re on. She will find something this time for sure.”
After a while, she appeared empty handed saying, “Let’s go.”
“Mom,” Ed said, “I’ll give you five dollars toward any purchase. How about this scarf?”
She didn’t, much to Ed’s chagrin. He never paid me and I never brought it up. I’m keeping a mental score though, just for fun.
Today, I was in luck. After making me pirouette, she quickly approved my selection of a pair of Levi’s. She left to screech racks and I changed back into my well worn jeans. I exited the changing room and strolled toward the women’s section. We were in a big-box outlet mall store. I didn’t see her, so I kept walking and looking down intersecting aisles.
Glancing to my right, I saw a pitiful sight. An old man, slender, frail looking, thinning sandy hair, red-rimmed eyes full of tears, was standing next to a rack of ladies cotton night-gowns. He held one in each hand, chest high. Both were a pastel color, one with something pale-blue imprinted on it, maybe flowers, the other a muted-red print of similar design. He had a weepy, frightened look in his eyes, as if he wanted to run, but couldn’t.
I took that all in, in that moment of eye to eye contact, and looked away. I surmised his wife had a health crisis and that he was on unfamiliar ground shopping for her. I almost broke stride, but my instincts were trumped thinking my wife would know best how to help him. She took care of my aunt and her mother in their later years. She would know the garments that would be appropriate. Her compassionate counsel, servant heart and beautiful smile have been balm to many in times of distress.
But, I wondered, was there really anything we could do? How hard can it be to buy a night gown?
Scripture instructs us to bear one another’s burdens. But I failed to offer as much as a smile, much less initiate a conversation to determine if there was a need I could meet.
Perhaps he was handling everything okay, just distressed by the circumstances of his life. I don’t really believe that, that he was handling everything okay, but I don’t know either. And that’s the problem. I was too busy hurrying through the day. I didn’t even seek my wife’s wise counsel when I located her three aisles over.
I regret that I passed the old gentleman by. He is indelibly imprinted on my soul, a scar to remind me that I am called to serve.
I have asked God’s forgiveness.
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