Thou shalt not steal. Stealing. To me, it comes in many different forms. The obvious would be taking something intentionally from someone or some place; purse snatching, pocket picking, shoplifting, embezzling. Those all come to mind. Then we have the selfish driver who doesn’t use a blinker. He or she is stealing moments of other drivers’ days. All of these fit in to the 8th commandment.
I had a revelation about a different form of stealing when my daughters were in grade school.
I was active in the parent-teacher group at their school. I also did a lot of general volunteer work there. I helped the student council with their little store set-up at noon on Fridays; herded children to the photographer on school picture day; organized fund raisers for the school and so on. It was really too much at times, but since this was a school where there were a lot of single parents or parents who both had full time jobs, it seemed like I had to do it all. I was a stay-at-home mom, after all.
One day, I was working in the copier room, while another mom was cutting some figures out of construction paper for her child’s classroom. I was surprised to hear how thrilled she was to be there! She said when there was a need at the school she would be happy to take a few hours off from her job and volunteer her time. It was eye-opening. I had assumed that most of the other parents weren’t interested in being there. It gave me food for thought.
It hit me that if I rushed around and did everything, as efficient as that was, I could be stealing the opportunity for another parent to have the satisfaction of taking part in their child’s classroom. I’d also be stealing the joy that a child might feel seeing their parent caring enough to take part in their school.
From then on, I tried hard to find others to do what needed to be done, instead of hurrying to do it myself. It seems simple, but it shifted my thought into more loving encounters with others and the school benefited by more parents lending a hand. In fact, it has been a helpful lesson in other groups and organizations I’ve worked with since then. And that revelation led to another one.
In the textbook of Christian Science, Mrs. Eddy writes, “Constant toil, deprivations, exposures, and all untoward conditions, if without sin, can be experienced without suffering. Whatever it is your duty to do, you can do without harm to yourself” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 385).
In this school experience, the “sin” if you want to call it that, was stealing, by taking over activities without involving others. The suffering was feeling too busy, overwhelmed, burdened, and anxious. Since God equips us for every duty that is ours, that subtle suffering should be a red flag for us. It was for me! I began to recognize that “oh no! can I really get that done?!” feeling. It was a signal to me that I was doing something that wasn’t mine to do.
Some of us may struggle with saying no. But, knowing that saying no opens the door to someone else getting to participate and thereby, learn a new lesson, or accomplish something they didn’t think they were even capable of doing, makes saying no much easier.
It also makes saying yes, seem like a subtle form of stealing. Now, I’m not saying that we can’t contribute in a busy way at times. But, if it’s extreme helpfulness and it’s taking you down, you can see it for what it is: not yours, but someone else’s opportunity.
So, to avoid breaking the commandment not to steal, always pay for your merchandise; by all means, use your blinkers; and do only what you’re sure is yours to do. Your days will be more content, peaceful and you’ll be keeping the great number 8!
I hope these insights will inspire readers to think more spiritually about themselves and the world around them!