A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.
Holiness is often hidden—no, I take that back—is often showcased in a child. Take the time I was in an airport drugstore in Hawaii. Ken was at the ticket counter, and I was using the time to pick up a few last-minute gifts for friends. I found a clerk in one of the aisles who helped stack three boxes of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts on my lap.
When I wheeled up to the cashier’s counter, I learned that the total for my purchase was $17.89. I asked the clerk to reach into my handbag, get my wallet, and take out a ten-dollar bill and seven ones. “If you don’t mind counting it out, I have enough change to make the eighty-nine cents.”
“Sure,” the clerk replied. When she opened up the coin purse of my wallet and saw all my pennies, she asked if I’d like to get rid of them. I glanced around to make certain I wouldn’t be holding up any other customers before replying, “Great!”
And so, while standing next to me and holding my wallet open so I could see, she proceeded to dig for pennies and count them out on the counter one by one.
Suddenly, a little girl darted up and—clink!—very delicately dropped a penny into my change purse. “Ooh,” I gasped. But before I had a chance to react, she dashed back to her daddy’s side at the card rack. The clerk and I looked at each other with surprise and pleasure. “What was that all about?” she asked.
While the clerk bagged my chocolates, I put two and two together. The little girl must have been watching me the whole time from behind her daddy’s legs. When she saw the clerk rummaging through my wallet to help me ﬁnd change to pay my bill, she must have thought I was poor and didn’t have enough money to pay my bill. Should I go over to the card rack and tell her the truth? I asked myself. Should I tell her I didn’t need her penny? How should I respond?
With the bag on my lap, I wheeled over to the child, smiled, and said, “I want to thank you very much for helping me.” I caught her dad’s eye and added, “You have the wonderful quality of compassion, and if you don’t know what that means, ask your daddy and he will tell you.” Her father gave me a wink.
As I left the store, I realized it was not only the right response, it was the only response. Although I didn’t need her gift, reinforcing her generosity was more important than rectifying her impressions. If a child wants to be generous and compassionate at my expense, ﬁne. If it helps her to think I’m in desperate need of her gift, ﬁne.
God was surely looking down and smiling that day. A child’s generous spirit was reinforced, and her compassion encouraged. A father was made proud. And God received the glory.
A little thoughtfulness—even a penny’s worth—goes a long way.
Joni Eareckson Tada joins James and Betty this Thursday on LIFE TODAY. Excerpted from Finding God In Hidden Places by Joni Eareckson Tada. Copyright ©2020 by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published by Harvest House Publishers. Used by permission.