Shopping in the clearance aisle of a woman’s clothing store can feel like a being squeezed into a crowded canoe with a bunch of strangers on a very windy day.
Purses slung behind backs allow for maximum closeness to the racks as well as maximum bumping into the distracted shopper who attempts to manage her purse, her selected items, and her toddler.
On this particular day, strangers give one another a quick eye of distrust and irritation, hoping the other doesn’t snatch up a hidden treasure before they have a chance to take it or leave it.
Giving my left and right a good look, I notice the diversity of my fellow “clearance canoe” passengers. At best guess, our ages span from two to seventy-two. Skin tones range from freckled pink to golden olive, to rich chocolate. And our sizes and styles vary as much as our ages.
After our initial exchange of silent looks, we return to the business of seeking our treasure. Notwithstanding the occasional bump, we manage to remain both completely close and completely separate.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
I leave the store with a smile and a small bag of fun finds. It isn’t until I settle onto the highway on the drive home that I notice my new ring is no longer on my finger. Less than a week earlier, I visited a jeweler to select a special ring I saw in a catalog. This ring meant something personal to me, and I waited until I had both the time and money to comfortably make the purchase.
The design was simple: an open, silver heart. The very simplicity and uncomplicated beauty of the ring also represented the complexity of what it meant to me: simply love people where they are at, Tiffany.
As I exit the highway to make my way back to the clothing store, I think upon the exact moment I lost the ring.
My hands are cold, making the ring loose. Not wanting to lose my place in the aisle, I decide against going to the fitting room. I slip on the blazer I’m interested in over my blouse in a single, quick motion. I think nothing of the tug upon my hand as I continue to pull the blazer over my arms. Deciding the fit isn’t quite right, I put the jacket back on the hanger and the rack. I finish before anyone has a chance to question whether I’m rocking our narrow boat.
Disappointed in myself for losing something dear, I tell myself a hundred times over that the prospect of finding the ring is zero to none. Gone from my possession; perhaps now taken by the hand of another, or mindlessly kicked down a crowded path.
I go immediately to the location of the spot where I tried on the blazer. Checking the fabric to no avail, I go to the floor – on my knees looking for the open heart.
To my surprise, I spot scuffed white leather sneakers worn by the toddler I saw earlier. His mother stands behind him, looking down at me with an inquisitive expression. I tell her I have lost my ring, but she doesn’t understand. We do not speak the same language.
Taking out a pen and an old receipt from inside my purse, I draw a picture of a heart as I point to another ring on my finger. Without further delay, the young mother is on the ground with me.
Humbled, I see three more strangers who were in the “clearance canoe” with me earlier join in searching for the ring.
I want to tell you the ring was found, but that is not how this story ends. I will tell you the intent of the ring was multiplied by six people that day, and the impact upon me will last much longer than any tangible piece of jewelry.
As I get back on the highway to head home for the second time, I think upon the simplicity and complexity of both the ring and the moment. While shopping, these women were as close to me as my breath; even still, we chose not to acknowledge one another except to stake our territory.
And yet, when our focus was united on something greater than the passing moment, we were gifted the opportunity to truly see one another — not as someone unlike the other, but someone who could help.
The ring in many ways is not lost. Perhaps it remains precisely where it is meant to be to show me exactly how I need to live - not holding on to worldly treasures and human-made judgments but truly living with an open, serving heart. To recognize my greatest treasure is found on my knees seeking out Love Himself.
SGLY, dear readers.
(Smile, God Loves You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian Author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier, Instagram:@tiffanysgly, and Twitter: @tiffanychartier.