I am driving four friends to dinner and a play. The forty minute drive is a bonus, because we get to talk.
I love my girlfriends. All of them. It wasn't until after I was married when I realized how important women friends were. Especially in light of how we understand we are needed by other people. At the center of our homes, our families have priority~~girlfriends understand this~~so when we do make time for each other~~sneak away to dinner and a play~~we understand its unique designation as bonus time, playtime, rejeuvenation.
On this occasion, since I am driving, my friend's offer to pitch in for gas and help pay for parking. A kind gesture, an expected gesture, for I would do the same. But knowing their stories, reimbursement seems...
One of the women in our company has been collecting used clothing, household items, books to sell to goodwill, to finance her summer reading program for refugee children. When the first offer comes to share the gas bill, I remember those children and respond, "Take the gas money and give it to K for her reading project."
No one refutes my suggestion.
On the way home my front seat partner tells me her dreams. She yearns to make her children aware of circumstances beyond their own environment, their own abundance. Her children don't know what hunger is. She plans to volunteer, with one of her children, at a food pantry as a first step of awareness that people in their own community need help. She hopes to take them to distant places to serve people, to learn from other people.
I remember the days of my heartfelt desires to make my children aware of others, of trying to make them socially conscious, of trying to make them decent human beings who would think of others their entire lives. We visited the elderly, the infirm, helped provide Christmas for families in need, and traveled to understand different cultures and people.
I remember trekking down the road of a coconut plantation to the outdoor kitchen where chickens ran free (for a time), to retrieve my five year old daughter. She loved hanging out with the plantation caretakers. They were happy, loving, and accepting of this bold little American girl who would sneak away to be in their company. At an impressionable age, she learned that cooking a chicken over an open fire, or cooking it on the stove, brought the same results. Though we lived and looked different, we were all the same: everyone ate chicken.
So when my front seat passenger-friend tells me she has applied for a job teaching English via the internet, and she hopes to use that money towards teaching her children about the world, and then she insists I take the money in her hand to help pay for gas, I too insist.
"Let that be the first deposit into your children's learning-about-the-world account."
A few dollars for gas, though appreciated, becomes trivial when compared to its better use.