Recently I tried my new Royal Farms Rewards card to buy gas. The sign at the entrance posted regular gas at $2.29. With the Rewards Card, it dropped the price to $2.14, according to the sign. So you can imagine my near-giddy glee when the actual price — the one on the pump itself — was only $1.88! For the first time in years, I was buying gas at less than $2.00 a gallon. I learned that the price reduction was not a fluke. When you indicate that you’re using the Rewards Card as payment, you get an extra discount. It’s been consistent with every subsequent visit to the pumps.
Just today I was driving down Rt. 13 and noticed that the “going price” on most gas stations had risen to $2.39. When I remembered how low the price for Royal Farms gas had been it struck me that $2.39 was 51 cents a gallon more — a significant difference.
But then I started thinking back many years earlier, comparing the price of gas in the late 60s, when I pumped petrol on the NJ Turnpike, to today’s prices. At 32 cents a gallon (regular), you could nearly fill your tank back then for less than the price of two gallons today.
Then I recalled those years not so long ago when the “gas crisis” was responsible for shooting prices to nearly $5.00 a gallon. By comparison, even $2.39 seemed cheap. During that crisis, once prices came down to a more reasonable $3.00-and-change, an expert on the economy of fuel made the statement that “we will never see gas prices below $3.00 a gallon again.” I don’t remember who he was, but I’m sure no one has asked for his “expert” advice since.
This whole comparison thing got me thinking, and not just about gasoline. Human beings have this horrendous habit of comparing themselves to one another. “I want a nose ring because my friend has one.” “Oh, I love that sweater — I’ve got one just like it.” “How can they afford a new car when we have to drive a used one?” The list stretches into infinity.
I fell prey to that many years ago. A pastor/friend of mine always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, meeting the right people for the right reasons and coming out on top. One time I commented to him how impressed I was with his accomplishments and how I couldn’t possibly hope to attain anything close to what he had done. He was quick to correct me by reminding me that there were qualities about me that he admired also, the point being that each of us is created for our own particular, unique purpose by a Creator who needs us to be who we are.
Onetime comedian Mike Warnke used to tell the story of how he wished he could preach like a then-popular TV evangelist. Soon afterward, he heard God speaking to him: “Why would I need two of him? And, if that happened, then who would be Mike Warnke?” Each of us is here for the purpose that God has given us and us only. We’re not to compare ourselves with others.
That’s not to say that we can’t admire certain qualities in others. I love to hear Paul Heil, the announcer on the “enLighten” (Southern gospel) radio station. I think he has the perfect voice for radio — resonant, “full-bodied” (for lack of a better descriptive). Would I like to have such a voice? You betcha (thank you, Sarah Palin). But if I did, then to whom would God give mine?
No, each of us has our place in this world. Comparing isn’t inherently bad. It becomes a problem when we use comparisons to think less of ourselves.