I love to win.
I love to win games: my tee ball team went undefeated in the early 80’s.
I love to win academically: first in my seminary class, and humble about it.
I love to win financially. I must win financially. No examples needed. Okay, just one…
Getting a good deal, not paying full retail price, makes me feel like I’ve won. The feeling of saving even $1 is close kin to sinking a seven-footer for birdie (unless there’s a side bet on birdies, at which point saving $1 cannot compare, though I’d have no idea what that feels like because I neither sink birdies nor place side bets on them, nor lie so as to appear good and Christian and a non-better on birdies).
Getting a good deal is good stewardship, right? You know, Parable of the Talents type thinking, right? Make the most because the Master is watching, right?
Perhaps my love for winning led me to ask the clerk at the local big box bookseller if there was a better deal on Mary Oliver poetry than the $25 hardcover, 81-page Felicity. I inquired whether Felicity was included in Mary’s Selected Poems book ($18 for what must have been 300 pages, a veritable paper brick; Felicity was not included).
The moment I asked the question Is there a better deal on this book of poetry? the thought occurred to me You’re missing the point of poetry.
Sampling the material, I discovered that Mary also thinks that I may have missed the point—of life. She drove the dagger on page nine (which would cost me $0.30 on a cost per page basis):
There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled
Like, telling someone you love them.
Or giving your money away, all of it.
I reasoned: Still, perhaps it makes sense to save $7, to get more poetry per dollar, to ask Mary for a discount on her most intimate thoughts. I grabbed Selected Poems.
What are you doing? inquired my wife. You don’t want the Selected Poems. You want Felicity. Go buy it. Now. Turn around, put Selected Poems back on the shelf, and buy what you want.
I acquiesced, carrying Felicity, a lightweight, hardback book that would cost me $25, to the counter.
Then, there was tax. Now, we’re at like $28 or something.
My store discount! I almost forgot—20% off! That’s a $5 savings, which is close to a 28-footer for the win.
Home now. Page 1. Let’s begin Felicity.
Arrested by imperative. Don’t worry. Now, it's piling on. My inner concordance references the Master:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Jesus, Mt. 6).
Don’t worry about winning all the time.
Be smart. Be responsible. But pay full price for poetry. And for an evening at the symphony with your loved one. And on your anniversary—leave coupons at home. Pay full price, because there are moments to be fulfilled.