Groceries in the Hall

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. (1 Timothy 6:8)

When we moved to Europe we changed from living in a concrete house to a concrete apartment building. It was a great place in the foothills of the Alps overlooking the plain and city of Vienna. At the end of the road past our building sat the Vienna Woods with all the beauty, trails and history. Many times we’d walk up to the woods and then hike along the ridge before descending to the little town of Perchtoldsdorf. There we’d refresh ourselves with Italian Ice Cream and then take a bus back up the hill to our apartment. 

While the apartment was nice, including a wonderful fireplace and spectacular views, it was in a town without a grocery store and lacking most other shops. With three boys still at home it was important to constantly acquire a large stock of food for the larder. To keep the kitchen filled with important items such as peanut butter, cookies, snacks, chips, drinks and various other non-healthy essentials, Beth was required to purchase quantities too large for her to carry up the stairs. Did I mention we were on the fourth floor and there was no elevator?  

To compensate for the lack of a lift Beth would stash her grocery bags at the bottom of the stairs. Then, when the boys or I came home we’d gather what we could and lug it upstairs. This worked pretty good and was the same approach others used in our stairwell. The only problem was when we weren’t sure which bags were our groceries and which belonged to our neighbors. They apparently had the same identification problem. 

One day Beth went shopping and left several bags inside the entrance waiting for one of us to come home. I arrived first buzzed and the apartment. She told me to bring up the bags. When I stepped inside and looked around there were no bags to gather. I thought maybe the boys picked up everything so I climbed the 49 steps to our apartment.  

I came through the door and Beth asked about the groceries. I told her there weren’t any bags in the stairwell and the mystery began. Where were our groceries? Theft, at lest of groceries, was not a problem in our complex. We figured someone else must have picked them up by mistake. Sure enough there was a knock on our door. 

We opened the door to find G holding our bag of groceries. He looked sad and said, “I thought M left our groceries downstairs so I picked them up. Once I opened the bag I knew it couldn’t be our groceries. Inside were fun things to eat like cookies and snacks and chips. I don’t get to eat those things.” He bowed his sad looking head and handed us the bag. We thanked him. He left. We closed the door. We chuckled. Later we shared some of our cookies with him.  

I like cookies so I can sympathize with G’s downcast appearance. I also like finding special little treats in my life. Sometimes they’re for me and sometimes I just pick up something meant for someone else. Then I need to remind myself what’s really important and that’s really hard. Where do I find contentment? Is it with cookies and snacks or with the fun little extra things in life? According to Timothy it’s not the snacks but the essentials of clothing and food. I can live with that. I can be content with that. 

I’m not claiming to hold some higher plain of spiritual existence or that I’m always content with food and clothing. Some days I am, other days I’m impatient for that little extra goodie. It’s good to remind myself when I look in the cookie bag and find someone else’s name inside that I can still be content with God’s care and grace, even without a fattening cookie. 


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