Tuesday, March 17, 2020


"Toilet Paper" is an excerpt from Remarkably Ordinary: 20 Reflections On Living Intentionally Right Where You Are (2014). Susan wrote this long before TP became the hot topic it is today. 

The brand didn't matter. Nor the softness. And I did not care whether the roll was placed in the under or over orientation. Reams of it weren’t necessary as on that day two squares would have been enough. But that would be asking too much of the empty house of which we had just become owners. 
In my hands I held the keys to the six-digit-figure property, but at that moment a penny's worth of TP seemed more desirable than the picturesque windows and ample floor space. 
"Back in a sec," I mumbled to my husband, shoving the keys into his hand. I lengthened my paces as I strode in the direction of the master bedroom. The new house was less than a kilometre from our current residence, 0.7 km to be exact, so on this trip I had not brought my purse which usually held a dependable supply of TP. And hand sanitizer. There was no soap in the house either.
One click later, the bathroom door was shut, leaving me in the room with brown walls that would soon be coated with Violet Stone of the Benjamin Moore paint line. 
I cast a baleful, sour glare at the empty brass holder inlaid in the wall. Then I paused. If it looked like it then it must be it. White paper fluttered in mid-air, waving a greeting against the brown and gold backdrop. It was even placed in the over the top position, my personal preference that ensured my gel nails did not graze the wall.
"Thank you, Valerie."* I whispered my gratitude in the air, as if willing it to carry over the miles to the province where the seller had relocated. Then and there I vowed that when I was selling a house, I'd leave TP in the bathroom. And a dish cloth, soap, and a bottle of water. Valerie had also left a welcome sign in the entrance. It was not what I would have bought, yet I felt good when I looked at it. In fact, I kept it until it fell and broke. And there were three wire hangers in the closet - the kind that come from the dry cleaners. There were three of us in our family. I hung my coat on one immediately, grateful again for her thoughtfulness. 
As soon as I got home, I emailed my real estate agent. "Today we were over at the house and I was overjoyed that Valerie left toilet paper in the bathroom. It may be a small thing but I was extremely grateful for it, and I wonder if you could ask the agent to pass on my thanks to Valerie. Tell her it's an act of thoughtfulness that has not gone unnoticed."
My agent replied, "That's great news. I’ll be sure to let the listing agent know to pass along your thanks to the seller."
The next day while I was getting my nails done, I mentioned the TP episode to the esthetician. Immediately she exclaimed, "I know Valerie. I used to do her nails." In small towns (or, in my case, a small city) almost everyone knows everyone else. 
But there was more than her just knowing Valerie. It turned out that before Valerie left, she had tried to purchase a roll of TP to leave in the house but the stores did not sell single rolls. Short of buying 24 in bulk, she could not get a roll. My nail professional had come to the rescue and obtained one for her, the bridge between two strangers, both her customers. 
Instructing that I place my fingers under the laser lights, the nail artist enthused, "I'm friends with Valerie on Facebook. I'll send her a message telling her how happy you were at finding TP in the bathroom." She beamed a smile at being the bearer of the good news. 
And I added wire hangers to the Welcome Basket I'd leave when I'm selling a house. 

Living Intentionally
Why was I so excited about a little toilet paper that I thought it necessary to send Valerie a message via my real estate agent, and to share the story with my esthetician?  We have wants and we have needs. Wants are desirables we can live without, needs are things necessary for living. My need was great on that day. At that moment TP meant more to me than my other possessions because it solved an immediate problem. 
How many times have we let simple acts go unnoticed? Taken others for granted? Bypassed their thoughtfulness?
It takes will to live intentionally. I needed to make a choice: to be grateful but keep it to myself, or to be grateful and light up the life of another person. In this case, if I count the messengers, four other lives sparkled because of my expressed appreciation. In Economics, the extra satisfaction that comes from adding a variable input to one that is fixed is called increasing marginal returns. And that's what I want to do every day.

SUSAN HARRIS is not hoarding toilet paper during the current pandemic. Find her part memoir/part insights book at places were books are sold. ISBN 978-0-9949869-4-8 (pbk)     ISBN 978-0-9949869-6-2 (ebook).


Peter Black said...

I smile. :) I recall reading this TP episode in your book, Susan. Although amusing in one sense, you emphasize the importance and grace of thoughtful consideration in the little things. Thank you. ~~+~~

Susan Harris said...

Happy Easter belated, Peter. I am now seeing you comment (I came on to post my article for tomorrow) so I apologize that I am acknowledging it only now. Thank you as always for reading. And I do believe that you had written an endorsement for the front of Remarkably Ordinary. Hope you are keeping well. Cheers and prayers.

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