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The Embittered Merchant

By Rev. Darlene

There was a merchant who owned a business and was quite proud of himself. He was quite happy to be a part of a thriving community. Every day was a joy for him. He had no problems supporting his family. He was not rich, but did quite well and had the opportunity of watching his family grow and thrive spiritually and economically.

He gave back to the community and hired many of its’ residents as workers. He was happy but time ignited changes that were profound and difficult to accept. He struggled with the imprint that was made upon his life, and as a result, grieved profusely.

He was now up in age and his children resided in other states and were preoccupied with their lives. The changed neighborhood was at the height of economic and spiritual deprivation. He lost money in investments as well and had large medical bills since the illness and death of his wife, followed by the same with his youngest child; he was that left devastated. It seems that in a moment life as he knew it went from day to midnight. Good times seemed to have taken a back seat with a quick good-bye. He was somewhere in this maze.

The grief was deep and consumed him like a parasite, eating slowly away, bit by bit, until it was replaced with an embittered spirit. People no longer seemed kind. They came to the store and complained about prices; shop-lifting was becoming a norm. He tried to be kind, but his customers seemed rude. Profits were dropping as a result of theft and poor sales. His home was in need of repairs that he could not afford and he now had to see a doctor from time to time. Life was becoming painful. His children seemed to show little concern and lacked involvement with him and he felt more like a stranger.

He thought raising prices would be an answer to this disastrous outcome, it was only fair. He had been good and what had he received in return? Nothing - he got nothing but grief and holes in his pockets. He made up his made he was going to survive. If people wanted this business they had to pay for it. Gradually, the prices continued to rise. His business lost the warmth it once had.

One day a youth came to the store and said, “I am looking for the owner.”“What can I do for you?”

“This is your lucky day. It’s not what I can do for you. It’s what we can do for each other. I am working on a community project center at the Community Center, called, ‘remarking history’ and the goal of the project is to learn about an older neighborhood business and try to help restore it. My parents use to talk about your business before they died in a car accident. They said they use to work here and this is where they met.”

“They did? What were their names”?

“Edward and Carol Thomas”.

The merchant look and smiled, “Of course, I remember them. I introduced them. I could tell they were kind of sweet on each other. They went away to college and they use to write every now and then.”

“I guess they got busy and forgot to stay in touch. They did finish college. My Dad was a lawyer and my mom was a nurse.”

“Good, they did very well and what about you. How are you doing?”

“I’m doing okay. I live with my granddad. I use to be real angry because they were killed by a drunk driver. I want see my parents again. I went from having it all, to not having; I went to being to not being; I went from not hurting to hurting and I went from not crying to crying every day and from not being angry to being angry every day. It’s like I tried to forget and I couldn’t.”

The merchant looked at the young boy and he felt a chill resonate through his body. He knew exactly what he was talking about; he didn’t want to say anything because he didn’t want to cry. He had to plead the fifth and take the cowards’ way out and allowed this youth to voice his feelings better than he ever could.

“How did you get over this son?

“I met his children at the center and believe me, I am much better off than they are. They’ve got to forgive their Dad and see him in a new way. They have got to get over it. I still think about it and I probably always will, but my folks gave me the best and I am still standing because of what they did, so what do I have to be bitter about?

The merchant listened to the youth and heard the piercing words. What had he lost? Nothing really – he only lost what he allowed himself to loose. The words of the youth and the deposit his deceased parents made in him returned to him and he felt the gratitude of his spirit. He was thankful.

“Well what you think Mr. can I work with you on this project?”

“Sure thing, I don’t see why not. As a matter of fact, I was just thinking about having a sale and then lowering some of these prices.”