I went to Wal-Mart the other day, I had to return something and I wanted a refund for it. I think we bought two of something we only needed one of. I don’t remember what it was that I returned and I guess it’s not important to the story. To complicate matters, I had lost the receipt. She who is the ultimate authority told me I had lost the receipt, since she would never do such a thing. I won’t quibble.
Anyway, I trundled on down to Wal-Mart, went to Customer Service and luckily, there wasn’t much of a line. I explained to the clerk about the extra item purchased and about being judged the party responsible for the lost receipt and threw myself on her mercy. No problem, she gladly agreed a refund was in order and soon, refund in pocket I was out the door. End of story.
However, I thought back to the years when I grew up in Detroit and what it was like to get a refund back then. Say you received a sweater at Christmas from Hudson’s and say that sweater didn’t fit. You were, after all, a growing boy and that was sometimes hard for Aunt Phoebe to keep up with. Anyway, you could get that refund, but you had to have the receipt, no question about that, and you had to have all original packaging, intact. Also, you had to bring it back to the store in the Hudson’s bag as I recall. If you were able to accomplish the above, you would probably get your refund. If not, forget it, you had to wear the ill-fitting sweater until next Christmas, especially in the presence of Aunt Phoebe. This whole process was, needless to say, a hassle and fraught with anxiety, for fear of failure, and for fear of having to wear some ill-fitting, God awful sweater all year, or at least whenever Aunt Phoebe was around.
Now, I’m a traditional kind of guy and I believe that there were many things experienced during the “good old days” that could stand to be returned. Family life being one of those things. And yet, here I’d just had a clear revelation that some things are better today than they ever were back then. When I realized this, I also remembered that, especially when I was younger, I would note the behavior of older folks (like I am now) and promise myself, or hope to myself, that I didn’t fall into those kinds of behaviors. One of them was an obsession with the past and inability to see anything good in the present. I saw that I was in some little danger, however, of falling into that very trap. It was a surprise, a bit of a shock. That’s not a good thing. So, next time I have to get a refund at Wal-Mart, or whenever I encounter something that is a great improvement over “the good old days,” I’ll remind myself of St. Paul’s instruction to the Phillipians nearly two millennia ago:
“Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 3: 13-14 (NABRE)
Sometimes it’s good to forget the past.