My friend Rick went to get his hair cut early one morning. On his way home, he stopped at the AM/PM station for gas. As Rick waited inside to pay, he couldn’t help noticing a young woman at the counter holding an 18 month old child, trying to make her debit card work. The card was refused three times, but she just kept rubbing the magnetic strip and asking the cashier, “Please try it one more time.”
Rick thought to himself, “Look how she’s dressed. She doesn’t look responsible enough to be taking care of herself, much less raising a child. No surprise she hasn’t got anything in her account to cover what she just spent.”
By now there was quite a line of people waiting to pay for their gas or buy their morning coffee. Finally the cashier called for another cashier to come and help as several customers were beginning to show signs of impatience! The young woman put her child down and took out her wallet and then just stood there at the counter holding her empty wallet in both hands. The cashier stood on her side of the counter, not making eye contact with the girl, and said, “You’ll have to call somebody to come and pay for this. Have you got someone you can call?” The girl just shook her head. Impasse.
Rick’s truck was ready and his pump number was called by the other cashier who had come out to help. He stepped up to the counter right beside the young woman. He swiped his debit card in the machine and punched in his PIN and the screen read “Approved.” The cashier handed him his receipt and said, “Have a nice day.”
Rick suddenly thought, “I could pay her bill. How much could it be? Even if it’s forty bucks, I could pay it.” Instead of thinking of all the reasons not to do it, Rick just said to the other cashier, “How much is it?” She looked at him and asked, “What did you say?” Rick said, “How much is it? How much is her bill?” The cashier looked at the register and said, “$20.00” Rick said, “I’ll take care of it” and took a twenty out of his wallet and handed it to the cashier. As she took the twenty Rick handed her, she asked, “You want a receipt?” Rick smiled and shook his head.
The girl looked so surprised – kind of embarrassed and surprised. She said, “Thank you so much!” She smiled and picked up her child and busied herself getting ready to go out the door, looking at the child to avoid eye contact with the other customers. Embarrassed, relieved, surprised. Rick just said, “Sure. Glad I could help.” They both went out the door together and the girl said, “Thanks so much!” again as she hurried toward her car. Rick said, “Sure. No problem.”
Then Rick got in his truck and started for home and being the amateur philosopher-theologian he is, couldn’t stop thinking about what had just happened.
First he prayed, “Thanks, Father, that I’m not broke at this point in my life. Thanks that I had the money in my pocket to do that. I remember times not too long ago when I was nearly in the spot that young girl was in. Thanks.”
Then he thought about the message his pastor had preached the previous weekend on being sensitive and willing to do “simple acts of kindness.”
Then later he thought, “Did I do that because I’m a Christian? I didn’t say, ‘God bless you,’ or ‘Jesus Loves you!’ I didn’t even invite her to church next weekend.”
As he thought about it a little more, he decided this:
- If I did it because I’m a Christian and it seemed at that moment that it’s what a Christian should do, that’s a good thing!
- If I did it because I just simply wanted at that moment to help a young girl who couldn’t pay for her gas, then maybe I did it because Jesus actually lives in me and I’m actually learning more to let him call the shots. That might even be a better thing!
Rick thought, “I hope I did it for the second reason more than the first one. Anyhow I’m glad it happened and it sure felt good to be able to do it. I hope next time something like that happens it doesn’t take me so long to actually do something to help!”
Like I said, Rick is only an amateur philosopher-theologian, but it seems like his conclusion about the incident and his response makes a lot of sense.
What do you think?
As always, I’d love to hear from you and I welcome your comments and questions. If you’re reading on the blog, leave a comment below. If you’re reading from the email, click “Reply” and tell me what you’re thinking.