Two or three times a week I leave my retirement farm and drive my truck into town to one of the six (count ’em six) coffee kiosks in our pipsqueak rural burg. You know, where the cute young girls making the brews wear tight jeans and smile like Cheshire cats.
I tell my friends that I order the cheapest thing on menu, an 8 oz cup of coffee, but I don’t drink it because I don’t like coffee. They laugh knowingly because it’s an old man joke. But I’m not being entirely honest with them. Actually I order a 12 oz mocha with extra chocolate and whip cream, which I do like and drink, especially because it helps with my regularity. That’s also an old man joke, but a factual one.
The coffee kiosk I favor has two windows and two lanes, one on each side, one going north and one going south. The other morning I pulled up to the south-bound window and ordered my regularity regular. When the coffee girl (a fetching blond with big teeth) handed it to me, she said it was free today!
I asked her why, and she said the lady at the north-bound window had paid for me. I looked across the interior of the kiosk and through the opposite window and saw a 50-something gal in a pickup truck smiling and waving at me. I waved back, even though I am sure I had never seen that lady ever before in my life.
And it irked me. For one thing, I don’t need anybody’s charity. I pay my own way. Always have, always will. For another, my pickup truck, of which I am justly and perhaps overly proud, is much nicer than hers. Meaning I am better off than she and so if anything should be charitablizing her, not the other way around. Maybe it was the stupid hat with earflaps I was wearing that aroused her sympathy, but that thought just increased my irk.
Furthermore, I am an old white man, a member of the most despised identity group in the country. A grumpy old white man, too, especially early in the morning. I admit I revel in the popular bigotry, because I use the animosity as a energizer — something that also aids my regularity as well as fueling my boiler for the day. Old white man disparagement is as handy and useful to me as a 12 oz double-chocolate mocha (with whip).
I (we) don’t need your charity, dear. Just the opposite.
So I told the fetching young blond that I wanted to pay for next customer and handed her four bucks plus one for the tip jar.
“Paying it forward?” she asked. I said yes, but my motivation was something other than charitable.
And I drove away feeling guilty. ‘Tis the season, after all, for kindness, compassion, and goodwill towards men, and women, and children, and dogs. I harbor goodwill towards the latter most of the year, but not so much the formers. I’m not proud of that.
Paul wrote “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (1 Corinthians 13:13). Charity, true charity, is a kind of love — for God and through God for our fellow men (women, children, etc.).
Giving alms to the poor to gain favor in Heaven is not real charity; that kind of thing is more akin to bribery. God does not accept bribes. Nor is real charity a donation to a cause, political or otherwise. Many so-called charitable organizations are anything but.
Real charity, real love, comes from the heart and may not involve money (or goods) at all. It could even be said that real charity should not, cannot, be monetary.
It is said (or taught) that charity springs from faith. I’m not sure about that. Those of little faith may still feel charity towards others, and charity, real charity, in its purest form, might be a feeling, an emotion, or a thought.
The charitable stranger lady who bought me a cuppa should not be unappreciated, however, or worse yet resented (Heaven forfend!).
So I humble myself to her charity. Who am I to be so proud and ungrateful? Blessings upon her. And upon you, dear reader. It’s always the season for charity. Love is a river — let it flow ever to the sea. But, of course, you already knew that, didn’t you? Still, an occasional reminder won’t hurt you. It didn’t hurt me.