A very sad situation occurred this past weekend, one that has caused me to examine my own life in regards to how I help others. My children and I took my wife out for Mother’s Day since we where not able to the weekend of Mother’s Day. It was her night so she got to choose what we did. One thing she said she wanted to do was go get ice cream (actually it was not real ice cream but that frozen yogurt), so we went to an establishment that she particularly enjoys. You get to fix your own frozen yogurt however you want, like a salad bar but with “ice cream” toppings. As we were sitting there we notice a little commotion around the register, nothing serious, but one of the employees went and got the manger or possibly even the owner of this establishment. My wife was seated where she could see what was occurring and said “I feel bad for that guy at the register. His card was declined.” Now we have all been right where this guy was, whether it is a problem with our card, with the machine, or maybe we really do not have the funds, but whatever the reason it is embarrassing. I looked around and saw this gentleman who looked like he could use some “ice cream”. I decided that I wanted to and should go help so I walked up and handed the cashier my card to pay for it. The cashier looked surprised and said “Are you sure?” well, as I informed her, I absolutely was sure, this was something I needed to do but also something I wanted to do. The guy looked at me and was very appreciative and said “Nobody has ever done that. That made my day.” Wait! What?!? The simple act of buying someone some frozen yogurt made his day?? That is when it occurred to me and I thought, “God now I know why you impressed on my heart to do that, you wanted to pour Your grace into this guy’s life and you allowed me to be the vehicle of taking that grace to him. Awesome!!!”
I went back to my table knowing that God had just used me and my family to show His love. It was great and humbling….and then it happened. The part that I said was sad. The manager, or owner, came up to me and said “I just wanted you to know that that guy does this all time. He goes around to all the businesses and tries to get free stuff like that. It is just a scam. Just wanted you to know.” and with that she just walked away. Now one thing to understand is that this establishment is Christian based which made this all the more sad and infuriating. After she walked away I kind of just sat there in shock, “What just happened? Why does she care what I do with my money? I just paid for what would have been her loss and that is how she responds?” I did not care nor was I looking for a pat on the back or a “that was so sweet” comment but to make it a point to come up to me and tell me about what she thinks that guy is doing and then just walk away, floored me. What she did is exactly why people make comments like “Christians are so hypocritical”, she is the reason that Christians are looked at with a bitterness too often and that angers me.
I do not tell that story so you will think so highly of me because for every story I have like that I have twenty others where I blew it. I tell it because to0 many times we try to get around the act of helping others or giving sacrificially by trying to justify it by saying “Well they are just going to use it for beer and cigarettes”, “They are just lazy. They could work if they wanted to.”, “They haven’t looked hard enough for a job.”, “It is just a scam.”, and on and on we make excuses for not reaching out and helping lift others up. But allow me to ask you this, what if just one out of ten that you reach out to actually is lifted up from the pit they are in and they are changed? What if all they needed to get a step up in the right direction was a hand reaching down to help pull them up? Would it be worth it? What if it were only one out of twenty or thirty or a hundred? If only one is ever lifted up it is worth it.
As Ashely and I talked about the “ice cream incident” on our way back home we both believed that what we did was what Christ wanted us to do. My wife made this great statement, “It doesn’t matter what the intentions of the other guy was, what matters is the intention of our heart.” and she is spot on. When we extend our hands to lift someone else up we need to be sure our intentions are right. Who cares who is watching or who is around, that is not what matters. What matters is making ourselves available so whenever God calls on us we will always be ready to be used as His vessel to pour out grace, love, and mercy to whoever He wants us to. So what if someone is seeking a handout, let God handle that, we just need to say “God I am yours and all I have is yours so whenever and whoever You want me to lift up I will do it whatever the cost.”
Allow me to add one more point that is pretty significant. I said in the last paragraph that it does not matter who is watching, well that is not entirely true. My son who is four years old and my daughter who is almost two were watching. True my little girl may not have known what was occurring but I can promise you this – my son absorbed it all. He heard that manager/owner say what she did but I pray that seeing his parents be willing to be vessels of grace regardless soaked in his heart and made him deaf to her words. If your children see you be people who lift others up no matter the cost they too will very likely become adults and parents who lift others up and then their children will see them do it and in turn become adults who lifts others up and it will continue to extend to the generations that follow. You can start a chain reaction of grace if you are just willing to reach out your hand.