Friday, March 14, 2008

Spiritual Gifts

CHARITY--noun (
1. generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill, or helpless.
2. something given to a person or persons in need; alms.

I've never thought of my family as poor, ill, or helpless, nor in need of alms, and yet today I found myself granted a rather unusual gift.

Let me start by saying that I love my neighborhood market. Its shelves are brimming with imported food with exotic names and the produce, meat, and deli items are always wonderful and affordable. And yet it is the one place that my frugality is always under suspicion. I feel more like a criminal than a home economist as every week the cashiers, huddled in little groups, scrutinize my coupons while speaking about them in a low foreign tongue. Then the cashier whose lane I happen to be in comes back to her booth and grills me about the product or the coupon or has some reason why she will not accept my carefully clipped manufacturer's coupon.

I've been hanging on to three $1-off bagged salad coupons that I found on health and wellness site a month or so ago, and when I saw a stack of these bags on the reduced produce cart marked down to a dollar, I grabbed three. Free salad! Yippee! Then after picking up some other produce and a couple bags of tortillas, I headed off to the milk cooler and saw, to my amazement, a sign in front of the gallons of 2% that said $1.29. Wow! My lucky day! While grabbing a couple gallons I noticed that the sign was advertising 1% milk. No problem. Put back the 2%, pick up the 1%.

I got to the check out, concerned that the milk wouldn't really ring up at $1.29. It didn't. A kind customer in the next check out line informed me that the sign was actually for the 1% half-gallons. At precisely the same time, the cashier informed me that she wouldn't take my salad coupons. So I asked her to take off the milk (I'd go back and get the half-gallons because 2 were cheaper than 1 gallon) and told her that I didn't want the salads. "But they're on clearance," she said. "I know," I said. I then paid my $19 grocery bill and headed back to pick up the milk.

Four half-gallons of 1% milk later, I was back at the check out line when the cashier handed me a bag containing the three salads in question, saying, "the lady behind you told me to give these to you." Attached was a paid receipt. Huh?

Sadly, my first reaction was one of prideful horror. I thought, "we're not rich, but my husband has a good job!" "We choose frugality!" "I didn't want those soon-to-expire salad if I couldn't use my coupons!" But by the time I had sheepishly paid for my milk and slunk toward the door, I realized that sometimes God gives us good gifts even when we don't need or ask for them. And sometimes He uses the charity of strangers to humble us.

1. In a general sense, love, benevolence, good will; that disposition of heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good. In a theological sense, it includes supreme love to God, and universal good will to men.

2. In a more particular sense, love, kindness, affection, tenderness, springing from natural relations.

So, blond lady, whoever you are, thanks. Thanks for the salads, but more so for the disposition of your heart that inclined you to do me good. May God bless you bountifully, and may I learn from you.

"The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself." Proverbs 11:25


Sharon said...

So what the the reason for not using your salad coupons? Also what market do you go to. We use alot of milk and would love to take advantage of that sale. There was an article in the paper last week about a woman who lost her $100.00 bill while in Walmart. The lady behind her in line ended up paying for her $74.00 purchase. I remember in one of our sermons, it is not about us. We shouldn't stop someone else from doing good.

Monica said...

Reading that brought tears to my eyes. Yes, it is humbling to realize that God does fully intend to bless His own, even with marked down lettuce. And He blesses us through using others to do it AND blesses them in the process, too.

Thanks for the reminder to be ready to use gifts and grateful to receive them. (And reminding me to find my salad coupons before they expire:)

eureka said...

Great story, and so well-written, Sara! Loved this.

I know the feeling, trying to get the coupons all in order before reaching the register. And in NYC they always rushrushrush (cashier, other customers), so I have to be watching everything that is scanned and make sure my plan (sales, coupons, instant rebates, store credits, rain checks, separate receipts, whatever) is in order before it's my turn. Sometimes I actually have to pep myself up for the trip because I dread the predictable scrutiny, not to mention the crowds, tall narrow aisles, no carts, carrying it back on the subway...

Most people do not take the time to bother figuring out a shopping strategy, so those few of us who do are studied. Occasionally I will find the checker is so fascinated by the process that she can't wait to scan the next coupon to watch the total ratchet down, down, down. Disgruntled employee, perhaps?