Have you ever been to a store and seen someone carrying ten to fifteen items in their arms instead of getting a cart? Well, that was probably me, or someone like me who understands that sometimes getting the cart is what take us over budget, way over budget. If I am going in to the store for a specific item getting a cart sends the signal to the shopping side of my brain that it is also alright to pick up extra less essential items in order to fill up this cart. This is not the message I want to send. Being cart-free allows you to be a critical thinker because you can only carry so much so you start making fast decisions on whether something is necessary and whether it can be skillfully added to the contents already in your possession. I have learned that the cart evokes the exact opposite.
Once you have the cart, you tend to walk slower and spend time going up and down each and every aisle to ensure that you have not forgotten anything. On this walk you are inevitably drawn in by sales, saver’s clubs items, bonus items and my favorite, cumulative discounts that are only good if you buy ten of something rather than one. Now, someone who wasn’t even thinking about soup is buying ten cans of soup because the “deal is so good.” Once you buy the soup, you have to buy crackers. After arriving in the cracker aisle you get a second box of high quality crackers which now requires that you go get cheese. While waiting at the deli case for your cheese to be sliced, you notice that five different meats are on sale so you get some and then since you have meat and cheese, you’re half way to a sandwich so you run and get lettuce, tomato, onions, mayo, mustard and a loaf of bread. Now that you have soup and sandwich fixings you have to grab a bag of chips. Getting chips is much more difficult now than it was when I was a child. Our biggest choice was Lays or Jays, ridges or plain and we thought we had died and gone to heaven when they created sour cream chips. Now the chip aisle is bigger than the produce section and chips come flavored as tacos, cheeseburgers, jalapeños, chili and any other food you can imagine. For a family, the diversity in chip preferences can be as expansive as the aisle, leading to the purchase of multiple types of chips to keep everyone happy. The juice and soda aisles present equally challenging scenarios. Now, $100 later you wish you had never grabbed the cart or noticed that the soup was on sale.
There are times in life we also have to be selective about what we chose to carry. There are people in most of our lives who have no problem unburdening themselves by piling their problems on you while they walk around carefree. (If you can’t relate, you may be the person doing the dumping.) These are the people who do not readily say thank you – especially for the “little things.” They are not appreciate of your sacrifices or efforts, have selective recall concerning the things that you have done for them all while projecting an attitude of never ending entitlement.
“Dumpers” are the ones who come to dinner and brag how much better they could have made, this or that dish even though they didn’t bring a dish at all. In relationships they cheat, but don’t want to be cheated on. At work, they want to come late and leave early fully expecting others with “less going on” to pick up their slack while they collect their full pay. No matter what you do, these people are never satisfied more than a week at a time and think that the world should cater to them when very rarely, if ever, have they made catering to the needs of others to the same extent a high priority in their own life. These are also the people that when they do something for you – you never hear the end of it, although they have forgotten the myriad of things you have done for them since that time.
Ask yourself, how much can I afford to carry? Is what I am carrying emotionally, spiritually, financially, or socially hurting me in the short or long term? Is my carrying the weight of this burden, situation or responsibility enabling someone else to be apathetic, lazy or irresponsible? In other words, is my attempt at helping, really hurting?
When you come to the place where extending yourself is compromising your peace, joy, mental health, safety, financial stability or spiritual walk – it’s time to step back and allow God to step in more fully. He has the cart and he never gets overloaded. How much can you afford to carry?