Jun 15, 2007

A Long Remembered Lesson About Envy

When I was ten years old I was very sick with pneumonia. The doctor arrived at our house and brought penicillin, a new drug at the time. When I saw the needle, I freaked out and it took three grown people to hold me down while I was given an injection. Naturally, I became immediately better, but the doctor also prescribed continuing doses of oral penicillin that tasted terrible. Being a rather difficult child, I clenched my teeth and refused to take it.

After all cajoling and threats did not work, my Aunt E decided to bribe me. If I swallowed the foul-tasting medicine and finished the bottle, she and my Uncle B would buy me a pair of cowboy boots. At that time, my life revolved around playing cowboys and Indians in the barn and in the woods--well, what could you expect from a kid who loved to watch Roy Rogers' movies. So I gulped the sickening medicine down as fast as I could and a short time later got my beloved cowboy boots. They cost about $10 and probably represented about $70 in today's money.

Naturally my siblings were very impressed and looked longingly at my beautiful brown and cream cowboy boots with the stitched red design. When next Christmas came, my generous uncle and aunt decided to give my brother and sister each a pair of cowboy boots. As the packages were opened, I looked at their NEW boots and compared them with my now worn ones. I became very angry, "They didn't have to swallow that terrible medicine. They shouldn't get any cowboy boots!" Then I ran and pouted and cried.

My Uncle B caught up with me a few minutes later and I'll always remember what he told me in that excellent 'teaching moment'. He asked if I remembered the Gospel told at Mass a few weeks earlier. Then he repeated the story of the laborers in the vineyard, especially:
These last have worked but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us, that have borne the burden of the day and the heats. But he answering said to one of them: Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny? Take what is thine, and go thy way: I will also give to this last even as to thee. Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? is thy eye evil, because I am good? (Matt 20: 1-16)
I felt very ashamed when I was told that the cowboy boots were given to my siblings because my aunt and uncle tried to be very generous people. It was a lesson I will always remember. May God grant His eternal love to my Uncle B. who died unexpectedly almost 50 years ago.

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