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How a Chair Made Me Realize the Difference Between Wants And Needs

blue chair

The minute I saw the ad on the bulletin board at the shopping center, I was intrigued. Someone was having a huge moving sale that very day. After finding the nearby apartment, I carefully looked over everything that was for sale. For once, I actually had some spare cash in my purse and was eager for bargains. There were several practical items we could really use, such as a small ceiling fan, a book stand for my husband, a desk lamp, an immersion blender, and handy kitchen odds and ends. Then, in a corner of the living room, I spotted it: a gorgeous powder blue glider chair, exactly like my friend’s, which I loved to relax in whenever I visited her home.

Reaching out, I touched its soft comfort. I asked the owner the price and she told me. Fortunately, it was just within my budget.

“It’s a very good price for a chair in such excellent condition,” she pointed out. “It’s almost like new, and it comes with that matching footstool as well.”

Then, a look of discomfort flitted across her face.

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“This chair is still for sale,” she explained. “But you see, early this morning, a young woman came to look at it. She’s expecting her third child very soon, and told me she’s always wanted a glider chair to rock her baby in. The problem is, she’s already on maternity leave from her job, and money’s tight, so she can’t really afford it. She told me she’s going to try to find a way to raise the money. However, in the meantime, she hasn’t called me back yet. So, the chair’s technically still available if you want it.”

Her explanation took me by surprise. I realized I needed to think things over before making such a challenging decision. I told the owner I would buy all the smaller items on the spot, but would call her back later that evening about the glider chair.

All the way home, I kept agonizing what to do. When I arrived home, tired after my busy day, I imagined unwinding in that comfortable blue glider chair. Ensconced in a corner of our living room, it would match our light blue couch perfectly.

Closing my eyes, I tried to imagine the young mother relaxing in the chair while nursing her new baby. I could still remember those hazy days when I’d nurse my own babies, a special bonding time for both of us.

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My children were much too old now to be rocked in that glider chair. My youngest son was already seven. Perhaps, he might snuggle cozily beside me in the chair while I read him a bedtime story. Wasn’t he still little enough for that?

I had to ask myself if I really wanted the glider chair. Yes, of course I did. But I knew that other mom needed it. I began to ponder the differences between needs and wants. We need nutritious food to eat—a lentil and rice casserole could certainly fill that need. Gourmet sushi, or a perfectly grilled steak, is a want. I do need a new winter jacket, but don’t want one with an overpriced designer label. I am still ineffectively attempting to convince my teenage daughter that all she actually needs is a basic cell phone, not the latest techno-marvel with all the literal bells and whistles she wants. (Somehow, I know I’ll never win on that one!)

Briefly, I wrestle with my conscience. Then, making my decision, I pick up the phone to call the owner of the glider chair before changing my mind.

“Tell that mom she can have the chair,” I say. “She needs it a lot more than I do,” I add by way of explanation.

I can almost see the smile on the owner’s face over the phone. “I’m so glad you said that,” she tells me, sounding both happy and relieved. “I’ve been thinking about her too. I’m going to call her back right now, and tell her I’ve reduced the price of the chair by half.”

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Sometimes, after a long tiring day, I still glance wistfully at the empty corner of my living room, imagining the blue glider chair that could have been mine.

Then, remembering that young mother, I know I made exactly the right decision.

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