When We Think of Others
Scripture: The Golden Rule: “Do to others, what you would have them do to you.” Matthew 7:12
When We Think of Others
On a very hot afternoon Jim and Jane were sitting under the big walnut tree planning for Grandmother’s birthday. “We really ought to do something special,” said Jim. “We are having a wonderful time out here with them this summer while Mother and Dad are away on their trip. I’d like to buy something especially nice for Grandmother. Do you know what she wants?”
“Yes,” said Jane slowly, “I know, but we can’t buy it. I wrote to Mother about it though, and I hope that she and Dad will send Grandmother money this year instead of a present so that she can get what she wants.”
“What does she want?” asked Jim eagerly. “And how did you find out?”
“Well,” said Jane, “she wants a set of very pretty dishes. She told me the other day when I was looking at some of her old china. I think that it is pretty, but Grandmother has always wanted to choose a set which matches. Many pieces in the set which she has now are broken. She has to fill in with others. I wrote to Mother and I hope that they will send a big check so that Grandmother can buy what she wants.”
“Say, that’s all right,” said Jim. “I’m glad that you thought of doing it.”
“But what will we do?” urged Jane. “We have to do something ourselves. We can’t depend on what Mother and Dad will send.”
“We have our allowance money,” said Jim. “There hasn’t been much to spend it for here. I really have more money than I’ve had for a long time. Grandfather will let us go to town with him when he takes the eggs and we’ll be able to choose something.”
With that decision they got up and went into the house for a drink of cool lemonade. But sometimes plans don’t work out. On Friday evening, Jim and Jane heard Grandfather ask Grandmother if she would take the eggs to the town on Saturday. He was planning to make hay and would not have time to go.
Right after supper the twins got together to discuss what they would do. Grandfather had asked Jim to help with the hay; that meant that Jane would have to be responsible for getting the gift.
“I hope that she will want to do some shopping. Then I could slip away and buy something for her,” Jane said.
“But suppose she doesn’t?” worried Jim.
“Well, I’ll just tell her that I have to go to the store for something or that I want to look for something for Mother.”
“Aw, she’d catch on,” said Jim. “I don’t think that would work, but you’ll just have to do the best you can.”
On Saturday morning Jane took all the money that she and Jim had saved from their allowances during the weeks that they had already spent at the farm, and started to the town with Grandmother. Just before they drove out of the lane the postman passed and stopped at the mailbox.
“On,” said Jane, “I’d like to know whether there is a letter from Mother and Daddy.”
She ran to the mailbox, and then came back smiling. “Two letters,” she said with delight. “One for you and one for me. Let’s open them before we go on.”
As Grandmother opened hers a piece of green paper dropped into her lap. She picked it up in amazement. “Look,” she said, “a check. A check for fifty dollars. Why in the world did John send me all that money?”
Jane giggled. “Read your letter,” she said.
As Grandmother read she smiled. “Bless his heart. He shouldn’t have done that.”
Jane jumped up and down with delight. “But you have the money now, Grandmother, and you’ll have to buy the new dishes. Let’s go and get them today.”
“Well, I really didn’t expect to do much shopping today,” Grandmother replied. “But it would be nice to have you help choose the dishes. We’ll look, anyway.”
Jane sighed with relief. That would be her chance. She could help Grandmother look and then she could slip away to buy a gift for her too.
“John shouldn’t have sent me all that money,” Grandmother kept saying as she drove along. “I have saved enough to buy the kind of dishes that I should buy. I’ve been keeping out a little from the egg money each week and I’m sure that I have at least twenty-five dollars. I really shouldn’t pay more than that for a set of dishes.”
“But Grandmother,” said Jane, “you know that you want very pretty ones and they may cost a lot of money.” “Well. We’ll see,” agreed Grandmother.
When they finally went into the only china store in town Jane was really excited. She wanted to help choose the dishes and she also wanted to buy a gift for Grandmother when Grandmother wasn’t looking. She didn’t quite know how to mange it all. There were dishes everywhere, and Grandmother passed from table to table. The brightly colored ones which Jane liked did not seem to appeal to Grandmother at all. Finally, she stopped at a table where a beautiful, thin china was displayed on a lace cloth.
“Syracuse china!” she said. “See how lovely it is. The colors are so beautiful. But I am sure that it is much too expensive.” She picked up a plate and held it to the light. “Appleblossoms. I have always wanted the appleblossom pattern.”
The saleslady came to help them. “Would you like some china?” she asked.
“How much is a service for six in this pattern?” asked Grandmother.
“Service for six would be around seventy-five dollars.”
Jane’s face showed her dismay, and then she brightened. That’s all right. Grandmother,” she said. “You have that much. You know you said that you saved twenty-five dollars for the china and the birthday check was fifty dollars. That way you can buy it,”
Grandmother smiled. “Yes, Jane,” she said, “I have the money but I think I’d better choose another pattern.”
“But why?” Jane asked impatiently. “This is what you like and you ought to take what you like.”
“No, dear,” said Grandmother. “We’ll talk about this when we get home. I think I’ll take the pattern in the eggshell cia which is very much like the appleblossom pattern. It will wear as long and be almost as pretty to look at, and it doesn’t cost more than half as much.”
Jane was so disappointed that Grandmother didn’t buy the Syracuse pattern that she almost forgot that she was supposed to shop for a present for her. She forgot until they were in the car and then asked if she might run in for something.
As she rushed into the store she knew exactly what she would buy. Grandmother had admired a lovely pair of vases on one of the tables. Quickly she counted her money and was delighted to find that there was enough to buy the vases. She wasn’t sure whether Jim would like them or not, but she knew that Grandmother would; and, after all, the gift was for her.
When Jane came out of the store Grandmother was talking to a lady who had just gotten out of a car parked near her. Jane slipped the package behind the front seat, sure that Grandmother had been too busy to notice.
On the way home Jane started thinking about the Syracuse china. “I can’t see why you didn’t buy the china that you liked most,” she said. “It really was very pretty. I know that you liked it better than the set which you got. Why did you do it?”
“Well, Jane, it’s this way. If I had bought the Syracuse china I would have remembered every time I looked at it that I had spent a great deal of money for something which I did not need very much while a great many boys and girls in the world do not even have enough to eat. I don’t think that would have been the right thing to do.”
It’s because the people in the Church of the Brethren think they should help other people in the world, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” said Grandmother. “We like lovely things, but we think that we should not spend a great deal of money for things that we do not need when other people are suffering. We call it the simple life. By that we mean that we should be satisfied with things that are not too expensive because we don’t want to be selfish enough to spend everything for ourselves. You see,” she went on, “since I bought the eggshell china instead of the Syracuse, I’ll be able to give some money to help someone and I think it will cause me to enjoy my birthday more.”
“It does make you happy to do things for others instead of spending it all for yourself,” said Jane. She was thinking of the lovely vases which were hidden behind the seat. She knew that Grandmother would love them, and that made her happy.
Book by Dessie R. Miller, illustrated by Harry Durkee,
Learning the Brethren way with Jim and Jane.
Elgin, Illinois: Brethren Publishing House, 1951. Chapter 9, Pages 42-47.