I ran to the grocery store yesterday morning to pick up some food.
Exciting enough, right? BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
While I was in the frozen food section, grumbling to myself about the store only having shelled edamame (gaaaah), I was approached by an older man. He was smaller in stature, modestly dressed, maybe in his fifties. He politely approached me, reached out to shake my hand (I returned the gesture), and then he threw me a curveball.
He asked me for seventy cents.
He told me that he and his wife were grocery shopping, and they ran seventy cents short at the checkout counter. They needed this minuscule amount to complete their checkout. Within about .0005 seconds, all of the below thoughts ran through my head immediately after he asked me for the change:
- Seventy cents isn’t going to buy much crack.
- You couldn’t put one grocery item back? One item?
- How do I always get caught in these situations?
- I don’t even have change. Do people still use change?
- Is he just going aisle to aisle asking for seventy cents? How many aisles would it take for him to buy drugs? Public school math classes, don’t fail me now..
- Just him some cash, and don’t make a scene.
- All I have is a five dollar bill, but what If I need to tip for valet parking later..
And it was right about at that last thought that I realized what a giant @#%!#& I was.
I pulled out the Andrew Jackson, smiled, and handed it over to the gentleman. He immediately expressed gratefulness, gave me a blessing, and headed towards the front of the store. As I finished up shopping, my mind swirled around my reaction to the stranger’s request. I didn’t know the man, but I knew the story he had told me. I’ve had to leave food at the checkout stand because I had busted out on our account funds.
It’s a humiliating experience.
But having a shared experience didn’t stop me from attempting to qualify his request through my own filters. I doubted his honesty and his motive, as well as his ability to griff someone like me. In the end I gave him the five dollar bill because of a personal rule of life that I try to follow, not because I was being generous.
Generosity is more than a learned behavior; it is the location of our soul in relation to all others around us. We so often use generosity in such twisted ways that it becomes co-opted with our own agendas. Can/Should real generosity be repaid?
I may have acted generously yesterday morning, but I was not generous. I want to be a generous person. I want to live more out of my soul’s relationship with the rest of creation, and just out of trained behavior.
Do you live generously? Does your generosity come with strings attached?
So, I checked out of the grocery store, and while I was walking out of the store, the man who I encountered in the frozen food section and his wife were waiting for me. They both wanted to shake my hand, and thank me for helping them out. Their gratitude was more than humbling, and all I could do was offer a small verbal blessing for them both.
Super expensive seminary degree be damned, these two taught me something profound that only cost me five dollars.