A busy, busy schedule forced me to run through Augustino’s Rock and Roll Deli drive-in window for a couple of roast-beef sandwiches, one large Diet Coke (for our son; we’ve gone off the poison!), and a large iced tea.
“That will be $19.33,” said the voice on the static-filled speaker. Gosh! I thought. Twenty bucks for two sandwiches and two drinks? That’s way too much.
An attractive young woman at the first drive-in window handed me a bag and two plastic fast-order glasses, and I drove away thinking, Change? Didn’t I give her a twenty-dollar bill? Being often math-challenged, particularly when I’m in a hurry, I thought maybe I’d given her two $20 bills. Because I was driving, I couldn’t stop to count the money wrapped in the receipt paper.
When I turned into our driveway and parked the car, I looked closely at the change I’d stuffed into my purse. It was $14.67! Obviously, the young woman had made a big mistake—I wasn’t the only person in the world who was math-challenged. Her name was on the bottom of the receipt beside the word “SERVER…”
Believe me, my first thought was, That was way too much money to pay for such a scanty meal. I’ve been given a gift! Keep it. Really.
However, I believe in the Scriptural principle: She who is faithful in little things will be trusted with responsibility for the larger things. (This is quite a broad Karen Mains’ paraphrase.) After a bit of struggle, I made a firm decision that the money and the receipt as a record of transaction needed to be returned to the restaurant.
Two weeks later—yesterday afternoon actually—I walked back into Augustino’s Rock and Roll Deli with the rolled receipt enclosing a wad of bills and some loose change (67 cents to be exact) in my hand. I explained the situation, apologized for not being able to get back sooner, and looked into the eyes of a stunned waitress. “Wait,” she said. “Let me call my manager.” The manager came; the explanation was given again. He acted like this never had happened before and he didn’t know what to do, so I joked, “Gee whiz. Don’t I get a free roast beef or something?” They all thanked me, trying to figure out the protocol. I said it was nothing and apologized again for my delay.
The truth is: These small acts of truthfulness do measure our basic concepts of morality. Is it any worse to lie, cheat or steal in the big matters than to lie, cheat or steal in the little ones? My father’s generation practiced a kind of Judeo-Christian morality about the “little sins.” If we were discovered stealing as children, we were marched back to the shopkeeper, where we returned our shoplifted contraband, confessed our crime, made an apology and returned the toy, or candy bar, or hair band.
By this observance of the letter of the law were we taught a basic morality (and perhaps kept from other grand thefts). Are we teaching the next generations the same kind of lessons? I wonder.
As I was getting into my car outside Augustino’s Rock and Roll Deli, the SERVER I had returned the money to, who in a kind of perplexity had called her manager, came to the restaurant door and motioned to me, “Can you wait just a moment. We want to give you a gift card.” So I waited and in a minute or two, she returned with a gift card of $10.
In these small actions, a social exchange was made. I returned money that was not rightfully mine; the restaurant thanked me for my honesty by giving me something in return. On these small exchanges—practicing integrity in the little things—is built the fabric of a whole society. Let us not consider them lightly.
Award-winning author Karen Mains has long had an interest in spiritual formation and the obedient Christian walk. She has written about the God Hunt in her book by the same name, The God Hunt: The Delightful Chase and the Wonder of Being Found. A hardback copy can be ordered from Mainstay Ministries for $10.00 plus $4.95 shipping and handling. Contact Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will be happy to autograph a copy for you.
Karen continues to write content for her Christian blog, “Thoughts-by-Karen-Mains.” In so doing, she desires to touch the lives of Christian women and men and help them find ways to walk closer with the Lord Jesus Christ. In addition, through silent retreats, spiritual teaching, women’s retreats, Christian vacation opportunities, and other ministry activities, Karen helps each Christian woman and man receive vital spiritual food.
Through her Hungry Souls ministry, Karen serves as a spiritual coach to many Christian women and men, and teaches a mentor-writing class. And, through the Global Bag Project, she is working to develop a network of African women who sew exquisite cloth reusable shopping bags, Africa bags. This micro-finance women opportunity helps provide a much-needed sustainable income for struggling African families. For more information on this critically important project, please click here.
For decades, Karen and her husband, David, have served God through religious communications—radio, television, and print publication. They are the co-authors of the Kingdom Tales Trilogy: Tales of the Kingdom, Tales of the Resistance, and Tales of the Restoration. To find many valuable resources for pastors and congregations at the Mainstay Ministries main website, please click here.
Likewise, pastors will find special resources to help them prepare effective, life-transforming Sunday sermons by visiting David Mains’ website by clicking here.