The Car Broke Down, and My Life Changed

People do not always appreciate what they already have.

It was a cold December evening. Winter seemed as though it was never going to end and the snow as if it would never melt. I stayed inside most days and when I did venture out, I found myself covered in at least three layers. I had just returned from a small excursion downtown to purchase a gift for my sister. It was a set of brand-new whisks and an assortment of spatulas. I knew she would like them; she’s an avid baker, and always in need of new supplies.

I covered myself in a blanket, sat by the wood stove, and sipped my hot tea. I thought about the following day and what I was going to purchase. Tomorrow, my mother and I would go on our annual Christmas shopping trip. We would go to the mall, walk around for a while, stop at whatever store we wanted, and purchase Christmas gifts for ourselves and others. It would be a tiring day of spending money and walking around. 

We were able to enjoy such financial freedom because my father was a very successful doctor, and we were very well off. My family and I had been “comfortable,” to say the least, my entire life. We lived in an oversized house we liked to call the “manor.” In the manor, we had everything anyone could ask for. There were maids, cooks, and butlers to make whatever food you desired, take you wherever you wanted, all without lifting a finger. The house itself had eight bedrooms, a huge library on the second floor, an indoor and outdoor pool, and a finished game room in the basement. 

I woke up bright and early the next morning, got ready and was out the door. Mother always liked to get a head start before the rush in the afternoon. It was approximately nine o’ clock when we arrived at the mall and there were around four other cars in the parking lot. The butler opened the car door. Mother and I got out, thanked him, and headed straight for our favorite store featuring designer purses and clothing. After browsing, each of us found a purse, and I grabbed two sweaters. The purse I picked out was olive green and had a braided, gold chain to go over one’s shoulder. We went to the cash register, paid the outrageous bill, and went on to the next store. We did this for the entire day. Once we were tired and could shop no longer, we headed back out to the car and went to dinner. Mother and I were supposed to meet my father and sister at a restaurant downtown.

We were about ten minutes away from the restaurant when the car started to make a funny noise. The next thing I knew, we were on the side of the road, broken down. The butler called a tow truck to take the car to a garage. When the tow truck arrived, we were instructed to take any valuables out. Naturally, my mother and I grabbed all our bags from the day’s trip and piled them into our arms. Since it was supposedly a short walk to the restaurant, we decided to haul all the bags ourselves and put them in my father’s vehicle once we arrived. The butler had to stay with the car, so my mom and I were on our own. The restaurant was directly down the road and to the left. Simple directions, but seeing ahead proved to be difficult when carrying so many bags. After walking for a while, we realized we should have been there already. 

We dropped the bags and looked around. It took us a second, but we realized where we were. We were in the upper part of town. It was remarkably pretty, from what I could see. The small houses had been decorated and red and green lights were strung all around, so you didn’t even notice their poor condition. Although pretty at night, the upper part of town was known for being an extremely poor neighborhood. Across the narrow street was a little girl sitting on her front porch. The house she sat in front of looked fairly condemned and overall rough. I told my mother I was going to go and ask for directions from the little girl. She obviously lived in the area, so the chances of her knowing how to get back seemed fairly high.  

I approached the little girl and noticed she was crying. I asked her what was wrong. She replied that she didn’t have enough money to buy her mother a present for Christmas. I asked the girl what it was she wanted to get her mother. The little girl said her mother had always wanted a pretty purse, and she was planning on purchasing one. I ran back across the street and grabbed the bag containing the purse I had purchased earlier. I handed the bag to the little girl and told her to give it to her mom. She peaked inside and was amazed. She thanked me, gave me a hug, and ran inside to wrap the gift, she was so proud. Seeing the little girl so happy gave me an indescribably happy feeling. I didn’t get the directions from the little girl, but I felt wonderful about my doings. 

As I walked back to my mother, I noticed the obnoxious mass of items we had purchased. I started to think about the day and realized that I had not made one necessary purchase. I did not need any of those articles. It was then that I concluded just how fortunate I was. I, of course, had known of my family’s wealth but it had never been put into perspective like it was now. There were families that could benefit from the money I had spent during my single day of needless shopping. The items I bought, I knew, would mean more to others than they ever would to me. I decided I was going to donate everything I had bought myself. 

I started by organizing the bags on the sidewalk, and it turned out most of my purchases were for myself. It was heartbreaking to realize my selfishness. I had even forgotten to purchase a present for my best friend due to my own inessential desires. Simple items like perfume, clothing, and shoes made up my spree. These were of course all items I wanted but, I knew, I already had a fortune’s worth. 

At the manor, my bedroom had an attached walk-in closet filled with clothing, half of which had never been worn. Also, in my bedroom there was a vanity dedicated to my perfumes, again half of which have never been used. Next to the perfume vanity was a wardrobe. This wardrobe contained all my purses. I was quite the collector and it was coming to my attention that my “collection” was turning into flat out nonsense. Who needed a wardrobe full of purses? There were other people who could not even afford one. 

I heard a car rolling down the street towards my mother and me. It was my father and sister. They already had dinner and came to find us after hearing from the butler what had happened with the car. Mother and I piled our countless bags into the car, and we started for home. As soon as we arrived, I carried all my bags to my room. I started by sorting the things I bought for myself from the gifts I had bought for others. I set aside one of the sweaters I purchased and a bottle of perfume for my friend whom I had mindlessly forgotten about. All the other items from my purchases would be given to shelters or donated. Then, I started on the belongings from my room. This job was going to take forever, but it simply needed to be done. In the end, it took nearly two weeks to go through all my belongings, deciding what to keep and what to donate.

The day I finished, it was freezing, but I had a burning warmth inside me. That ordinary day of shopping and that little girl truly changed my perspective on life. I am now aware of the unfortunate financial state of others around me, and I am now aware of my own actions. I need to stop buying and be happy with what I have been blessed with. Yes, I enjoy shopping, but I do not need new items to be happy. Seeing other people filled with joy makes me the happiest I have ever been. 

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