Coffee taught me a very important lesson last week… about kindness, generosity, and patience.

My friends and I were in Dunnville, an hour’s drive away near Lake Erie, for a quilt show held by the local guild. It was an amazing quilt show, with great vendors, in a new community arena.

Now for anyone who is not a quilter, I must explain that a quilt show is our equivalent of a medieval fair. We get up early and travel long distances with our friends to see the latest wonders, and to shop at the temporary market. There are local quilt shops, of course, but a quilt show some distance away will attract vendors from many locations, some quite specialized, some who only sell at shows, some we only see at “the fair”. There may be something NEW! And of course, there are the quilting friends we see only at the shows.

Last Friday I slept in and did not have time to go to the bank before meeting my friends for the drive. I also forgot that I had paid cash to renew my guild membership and register for a workshop… $95 out-of-pocket on Wednesday night. After paying admission, buying tickets for the door prize, and visiting the book vendor, I had $.73. Yes seventy-three cents. But I really had to have those books, which I might never see again, and I had promised myself not to buy any more fabric anyway, so I told myself it didn’t matter.

But seventy three cents will not buy a cup of coffee. And I really, really needed/wanted that second cup. I considered returning one of the books to ask for a refund. No, I could not do that. I considered trying to borrow money from my friends. That did not work either.

I do not carry a charge card. My cheque book was at home. Neither the venue nor any of the vendors was set up for debit card transactions. The arena was out in the country, far from a bank. And I had arrived as a passenger in someone else’s vehicle… someone else who, I think, was not at all sympathetic, indeed may have been finding my predicament rather amusing.

I am not accustomed to privation. In this cash only environment I was a pauper, with a banquet of goods set out before me, and a really urgent need for nutrition… or at the very least, coffee. It did not feel good!

So the next time I see a “panhandler” downtown, asking for money for coffee, I will try to be kinder, more generous, more patient. My privation was temporary… the result of my own forgetfulness and carelessness. I felt whiny and grumpy and angry. It was only for a few hours, but it felt like a very long time!

A lesson in humility? A reminder to be more sympathetic in tough economic times. Or just caffeine withdrawal? It was an experience I recommend for all of us who are well-off and always have what my mother called “walking around money.” Good for our social awareness, even for a little while… but one I would prefer not to repeat any time soon.

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