My wife, Jennifer, and I recently spent a few days at a cabin in Mt Hermon, CA. It was a simple house in a simple town – not a ton to do, which was perfect for us. Meandering after lunch one day, we happened into a thrift store and as we were checking out, the clerk noticed the man behind us. He was holding just two small paperback books and a dollar in his hand.
She smiled and said, “Sir, I’d like to get those for you. You can go ahead. My treat.” The man looked at her surprised and replied, “I’ll pay you for them.” Again, she smiled and said, “No, I’m saying they’re yours. It’s only fifty cents; I’m happy to pay it.”
The man paused, considering her offer. He shocked me when he replied, “Let me at least give you the change I have.” Scrounging through his pockets, he came up with twenty-three cents and some lint. He placed it on the counter and walked out, unable to look her in the eyes.
It struck me as so strange… If he’d refused her altogether, I’d have known he thought she was a kook. But the fact that he felt compelled to pay something says he was just uncomfortable accepting her gift.
It seemed ridiculous. For a measly twenty-three cents, he robbed himself of her kindness. Not only that, he robbed her of the joy of giving it. How sad, I thought… to let his pride get in the way over something so small.
And then it hit me… I’m that guy. That’s me.
I’ve let my pride get in the way of receiving someone’s kindness.
I’ve questioned the giver’s intentions.
I’ve stolen the blessing.
I’ve offered up less than my debt, as if it was payment enough for what I’d taken.
I’ve refused the gift.
Ugh! Why do we do that? Why do we pretend to have it all together, like we can handle everything on our own? When did we decide we should give and give, but receiving expresses weakness?
Most importantly, what do we forfeit when we don’t accept the gift?
If he’d accepted the clerk’s offer, maybe the man would have left the store wanting to pay it forward. Maybe the clerk would have been encouraged to help someone else. But instead, he left with a wall up, and she was deflated. I can’t help but wonder what they missed out on that day.
As for you and me -
- What if we greeted each day believing – even knowing – that there are specific gifts waiting for us to discover?
- What if we lived our lives as a daily treasure hunt, searching for ways to both give and receive?
- What might we set in motion in peoples’ lives by our words, time, experience and willingness to help?
- What good could be done for us by theirs?
- What if our futures are somehow propelled not only by what we give, but by what we’re willing to receive?
Let’s not miss one thing more!