Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Nickel's Worth of Graciousness

Watchword for the week of July 6, 2014

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love
Psalm 145:8

I had an opportunity to be gracious today. The transaction went down in the Soft Drink and Snack Food aisle of the grocery store. As I loaded up the cart with three 12-packs for $9.99, a friendly young woman approached me. “Hey, how’re you doin’?” she asked in a croaky voice.

“I’m doing well, thanks. How are you?” I answered back politely.

“I’m great!” the stranger explained exuberantly. “I just got back from my sister’s house. I was there a whole week.” She stood stalwartly on pudgy legs, and although she efficiently blocked me from making forward progress, she was without malice. She smiled broadly. Happiness registered not only in the curve of her mouth, but in the twinkle of her up-slanted eyes.

“I’m glad you had a good time,” I said. “It’s nice to get away on vacation.”

“Can I have a nickel?” she asked.

“Excuse me?”

“Can I have a nickel?” She lifted up a small package wrapped in white deli paper and pointed to the price sticker. $1.05. “I have a dollar in my pocket. Can I have a nickel?”

Her unashamed persistence melted my heart. I began fishing in my purse for change. While I hunted, she waited, patiently expectant. I located a quarter and handed it over, but she shook her very round head. “No. A nickel.”

I stifled a laugh and searched further. Eventually, I came up with the correct coin. I placed it in her open palm. She curled her stubby fingers—characteristic of Down syndrome—close around it.  She thanked me loudly and moved on. As I continued to stock my cart, I heard her making conversation in the next lane over. “I just got back from my sister’s house. I was there a whole week….”


This real time, live action parable provided an episode of delight along with a measure of insight. I found joy in being able to meet the woman’s immediate need (all for the bargain price of 5 cents). In this life, it’s not often that a problem can be solved so simply and perfectly. To be able to respond to a request with kindness and completeness flooded me with the pleasing sensation of goodwill.

Is this the sort of payoff God gets for being gracious with us, I wonder?

And what if, as with the woman who refused the quarter because she was set on getting a nickel, God has even greater blessings in store for us than we are primed to receive?  Are we foolish for expecting God to dole out mercy, patience and love in Dixie Cups when, indeed, God is poised to pour from an unrestricted garden hose? Maybe God stifles a laugh (or holds back a tear) when we are stingy about what we are willing to receive. 

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