Blog, Staple Stories

A Bottle of Orange Squash – Balancing the Books

When I was a student I worked as a volunteer in a hospice serving drinks to the patients and their relatives. One morning I went into a room and met a young mother who was clearly 30-40 years younger than any of the other patients. She asked me if I would buy her some orange squash and as I was back in the next day I readily agreed.

That afternoon I went to my nearest supermarket and bought the best and most expensive bottle of orange squash. The following day I went back to the hospice and gave the bottle to the woman. She asked me to take the money from her purse and I explained that it was fine and was a gift. I then stupidly had an argument with this dying young woman about who should pay for the orange squash.

A nurse came into the room, touched me on the arm and quietly told me to take the money. She explained that the woman was powerless simply lying and dying in her bed. Paying for the drink was something she wanted to do and my attempt at generosity was depriving her of her power. Red faced I took the money and thanked her and later the nurse.

As in most things there is a balance to be found between giving and receiving. I like to think of it being synonymous to breathing –  if you don’t breathe out you suffocate but you’re equally knackered if you don’t breathe in.

  • Caustic soda

    Interesting. As a mediator I would have gone 50/50

    As a lawyer, I would have asked for an uplift and travel expenses!

  • Nikki Stones

    I like this message because it brings home the fact that in our final moments (and they will happen) all we have to contend with is our minds, the person we have become. This lady was your teacher – as everybody is our teacher – if we listen without defensiveness and grow into our great potential we will reach those final moments knowing that our life was meaningful. Not by the car we drive or the house we live in or the corporation we built or the money in the bank but by our great humanity and ethics built on listening.

  • Nadio Granata

    A very touching and yet important story, well told. Misplaced generosity especially when dealing with people in ill health is a very hard lesson to teach … or learn. Thanks for sharing this.