Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Spare Change and Strangers (the colliding of stories)

On New Year's Eve I was in the grocery store waiting my turn in line, when the man in front of me turned around and asked for 20 cents.

He looked slightly unkempt but his eyes were kind. His purchase was simple, a loaf of white bread and some Kroger brand turkey.

As I looked up at him he began to explain.

"Its just that this is going to be $3.79 and I only have $3.60." He squirmed slightly as he waited for my reply.

"Of course!" I replied as I pulled out my wallet. "Here. I have a quarter. Will that be enough?"

He looked grateful and relief flooded his face as he replied, "Yes of course. Thank you so much. Thank you!"

As his turn in line arrived he made his purchase with three crumpled dollar bills and spare change. Before he left, the cashier handed him back a few cents. To my surprise, the man turned back around to me, this time with his hand outstretched to return to me the extra. 

"No no, you keep it." I stated.

"Thank you so much."

And he was gone.

As I walked out of the store I was struck by our simple interaction and I couldn't put into words why. Perhaps it had to do with the beauty of his request. He asked me for exactly what he needed, no more and no extra. And when it was over, he turned around to give me the excess. There was no advantage being taken, no con and no grand gesture. It was simple but beautiful because it was humanity coming together to help each other out. And it settled into my being and changed my perspective. There was some sort of intangible beauty that surrounded that quiet moment.

The fact was, I didn't know that man's story. I don't know if he was homeless or just low on cash. I don't know if he was getting dinner while waiting for the Rose Parade or if this would be his dinner for a few days. The point is, I don't know his story and he didn't know mine. But in that moment, our stories collided. In that moment two worlds came together with the exchange of a quarter and a few words.

On this first day of the new year I was retelling this story to a friend of mine and it struck me that what had occurred was a beautiful portrait of God. The man had asked only for what he needed and then immediately tried to return the excess. He was both humble and grateful, and it was this posture that stayed with me the most.

So too then is it with God. Are we not to ask for what we need and then receive His blessings? So too will He then provide for us, not over and not in excess, but exactly what is needed to survive. And isn't it true that we should always return the excess to Him, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant? It was a lovely picture and reminder, for there was Christ in my interaction with this man, and it was on that note that I ended 2013. 

Its beautiful, isn't it?

Through this man's small act of asking I was blessed. We both received something that night. As we walked away into our separate stories we both walked away with what we needed, he with a meal and me with a new perspective. We both walked away better because of the interaction, and it reminded me of the beauty that shines when stories collide.

May we not forget in this new year that there is beauty in giving and receiving, and there is blessing in even the smallest of gifts. 

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