By Amber Kinloch
Note – Names mentioned below are fictitious for reasons of privacy.
My mom and I went out to brunch with a number of older folks we see at daily Mass. Towards the end of our outing, the matter of payment came up. It was then that Jim, a new acquaintance, found out that Margaret had paid for everyone’s meals.
Polite objections ensued from Jim. He and the other men would rather have paid for their meals. My mom and I held our peace, letting the others duke it out in friendly fashion. The incident got me thinking, though, about the emphasis people place on money in relationships.
People pay a lot of attention to money. In relationships, one of the initial things people tend to assess is how much money someone has and how they use it. “Money talks,” is a classic saying. Usually, it’s employed in reference to the idea of bribing someone. But how a person handles money also reveals a good deal about their character, whether they’re greedy or generous, careless or prudent. Jesus Himself in speaking of storing up eternal versus earthly treasures, attests that “where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matthew 6:21).
Money is important. That said, I think people tend to place too much importance on it in relationships, even in trivial sparring matches over who gets to pay the bill.
Margaret treated us to brunch, and for that we owed her our sincere thanks. But it was not a one-way deal. Margaret is a retired nurse who lives alone. She’s a sociable person in need of company more than other people, perhaps. But here’s the thing: even if Margaret possessed all the money in the world, she couldn’t compel us to join her for brunch. Our presence and cheerful banter could not be bought. They were a gift.
There is so much we have to offer others that’s worth far more than money. Respect, appreciation, honesty, loyalty, a listening ear, smiles, compliments, words of encouragement, and our time and talents. Anyone can offer these jewels. Nobody can buy them. They are a gift we give and receive.
We might think about this the next time we’re inclined to worry about money. Sometimes we’re disappointed when we don’t get that present we wanted. Maybe we’re embarrassed by a monetary gift that we don’t need or want. Perhaps we worry because someone showers physical gifts upon us, gifts whose monetary value we know we cannot match. Let’s remember in those moments that there are more important things than money. Let’s be grateful and receptive like our Blessed Mother.
Caryll Houselander, in writing about the Annunciation, observes: “[Mary] was not asked to do anything of herself, but to let something be done to her. She was not asked to renounce anything, but to receive an incredible gift.” (The Reed of God, pg. 33)
Mary had nothing to offer God in terms of earthly possessions. She only had herself, the exact thing God desired. Let’s be like her and truly give ourselves to God and others in whatever way we can. Let’s offer them those jewels which money cannot buy. In this way, we need never be embarrassed, no matter how much money we have.
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.