I sat on the couch, enjoying a cup of tea and a little morning silence. My husband was out of town, my grandchildren weren't making their usual morning appearance, and I savored the breath of calm. The telephone jarred me out of my reverie at 8:30 with a request for a donation. It was for a good cause, but I declined for an equally good cause: The money simply wasn't in the bank. I made my excuses, but apparently they weren't deemed sufficient. I would claim that the caller heard the guilt and apology in my voice, except that the voice had already informed me that this was a taped message. Please tell me they can't program a tape to detect guilt! At any rate, the voice on the tape "understood" and went on to encourage me to "pledge." The payment, it went on, wouldn't be owed for a few weeks.
I sighed. This is the kind of reasoning my husband and I are working to resist whether the expenditures are for charity or for personal indulgences. I held the line, but when I hung up, I felt bad – about myself, about my life. I was close to tears.
I like saying "yes" more than "no." Those near-tears stayed with me – and, worse, so did a feeling of failure. How could I not have extra for this charity? (Never mind that we'd already made two "extra" donations this month.) Maybe we should have structured our lives differently, so that we had more disposable income, instead of being artists holding part-time and seasonal jobs. What were we thinking? Why, at our stage in life, were we too "poor" to help out?
Wait a minute, something in me fought back. Why was I letting this uninvited (and taped, for goodness sake) voice make me feel so defensive, making me judge my life and find it wanting? How dare it interrupt my morning solitude, destroying my peace of mind? I'd gone from being a woman of serenity to one filled with self-doubt, agitation, and negativity, all from one uninvited phone call. It wasn't fair!
Ah, but then came the most wonderful thoughts: What do you mean by "fair"? And, moreover, how can you be feeling poor? If you were poor, would you have a phone on which someone could call? If you were poor, you might not even have a home or permanent address at which someone could reach you. A cup of tea to sip quietly might be a luxury beyond your reach. How many people in the world never know even a moment of peace? How's that for fair?
I started remembering how good I have it, how startlingly rich my life really is, how fortunate I am in all ways, from the financial to the familial, from the husband who often brings me coffee in bed and the incomparable grandchildren who burst through my door most mornings to the luxury of having a computer with which to record my morning reflections, aggravations, and realizations.
This morning call was a gift, reminding me of my good fortune, reminding me to be grateful. Messengers of truth can appear in many guises – apparently even in the tape-recorded voice of a paid telephone solicitor.