The Worst Shopping Trip- A Fantastic Life Lesson

We all had lessons as kids that really left their mark on our lives. Hard, ugly, embarrassing stuff that we want to forget or go back and change. It’s tough being a kid. There are so many people with expectations…parents, teachers, friends. Kids are trying desperately to blend in and stand out, simultaneously. They are trying to learn in school, at home, and gain life experience every step of the way. Some of the toughest lessons, the big ones, change us.

Sometimes in life things are given to us. Other times we toil and work and earn what we have. There is that old saying, “easy come, easy go,” yeah, I became well acquainted with that saying and it’s meaning one dreaded day as a child. It was the summer before I went into 7th grade. School was starting soon and I was going to a new junior high with new teachers and different students. My mom was taking my siblings and I school clothes shopping. I remember trying on a million outfits that day. I chose clothes that I thought were really gonna make me look cute and cool and I was getting excited for my new school year. We hauled bags and bags of clothes around the mall as we continued to accumulate more. I stood in the shoe shop at the end of our trip and looked at my foot in the little floor mirror admiring these shoes that my mom was about to purchase for me. I remember grabbing the box, going back to the bench that I had rested all of my bags of clothes on…and guess what?


It was horrible. We searched and had security view the cameras and every single thing that I had shopped for and my parents had paid for disappeared. Well…not exactly disappear…we saw a lady and her kids walk off with them and out of the store. It was pretty heart breaking. I remember crying, my cousin who was with us was crying, my mom felt terrible. She was upset that the money she had spent was flushed down the toilet, so to speak, she was upset that our shopping haul was stolen, but mostly she was sad that I was sad. We left the mall that day empty-handed, exhausted, defeated and a little more cynical than when we’d entered it.

After the tears at home stopped, the lesson began. I realized that I had been innocently careless with items that had cost a lot of money. They came easy to me and I didn’t guard them well. My parents and I had a long conversation and it was agreed that they wouldn’t be shelling out cash for me to do another shopping spree without earning it. I understood. So, I scrambled to earn money in the few weeks before school started. I remember watering my aunt’s plants and feeding her dog while she took a trip out of town. I cleaned our pool and clipped the hedges, raked, pulled weeds and babysat siblings. I got tired and sweaty and I saved dollar after dollar. My parents were generous with their donations for the chores I did…however, the amount I earned fell very short of the price of the clothes I had lost. But let me tell you I can remember exactly what I purchased with my money. I bought two shirts: one grey v-neck, a white scoop neck top and a green and brown plaid flannel skort, remember skorts? (like shorts with a skirt flap overtop, classic!) Yep, it was a tough lesson for a kid to learn. Unfortunately, someone took off with my cool stuff and I had to earn what came next.

Life is sprinkled with these annoying lessons. Hopefully we can learn to enjoy what we have while we have it. The tough lessons that we learn which carry us through each day are priceless. They help us to be grateful. They help us to enjoy what we have been given. I so much wish that I could’ve gone back to that day and held my Gottschalk’s and Mervyn’s bags closely (wow, neither of those stores are in business, anymore.) I wish that I would have been more attentive. With only a minor adjustment in the events of that day I could have saved myself a lot of heartache.

With life in general, I could save myself a lot of trouble if I am vigilant with what I have, instead of looking for the next best thing.

Dang, all these years later, that terrible shopping experience came full circle to become a profound life lesson!

I had many more big lessons as a child. But this one lesson will stick with me for all the right reasons. I am grateful that the only thing I lost that day were clothes. I’m grateful that my eyes were opened a bit and I became more aware of my surroundings. I am so thankful that losing a few bags full of clothes helped me to realize that my parents were very generous in providing for us, but also that they allowed these lessons to take hold. They didn’t save me from the lesson. They didn’t run out and purchase more or hand over the money that I know they had. They let it sting…which, as a parent now, I know how difficult that is. It is almost an instinct to protect our kids from trials like this…but then what would I have learned? That my parents would always rescue me? I think that is exactly the lesson that they wanted me NOT to learn, lol. They wanted me to be my own best friend. They wanted me to become responsible. They wanted me to be appreciative, watchful and accountable. And you know what…it was a great start.

What tough lesson made an impact on your life and made you more appreciative?