So I was parked in my car eating my drive-thru breakfast burrito when the guy hit me up for a dollar. Usually I tell these guys, “Sorry, I just spent my last buck on this this meat and cheese wrap.”
And they usually reply, “That’s a burrito smart ass.” Then they move on and I finish my meal.
This morning, though, my response was different. When hit up for change, after I waved off his requisite “I’m goin’ to work tomorrow,” I dug into my shirt pocket and pulled out a dollar bill. Except it wasn’t a dollar bill, it was a 5 dollar bill. It took a couple of seconds for me to realize: “She gave back too much change.”
I handed the bum the money and said, “Eat well, my friend, eat.”
His shaky hand quick grabbed the loot and he said, “God bless you.”
I made a sign of the cross and pointed to the fast food entrance. I watched him enter and I asked myself, “Is he walkin’ or runnin’ out the exit?”
Then I thought about the girl who who gave me 4 dollars too much change. I thought, “They’ll probably make her pay for the short drawer.”
So I pulled my receipt out of the burrito bag, backed my idlin’ car out of the parkin’ spot, waited in the drive-thru line while the person in the car in front of me took over 12 minutes to place an order, pulled up to the window, saw it was the same person who took my order, showed her the receipt and, after some deliberation, returned the overage.
I pulled out of the fast food driveway into the mid-mornin’ traffic. As soon as I settled into a road rhythm, I asked my self, “Why? Why’d you give that moocher money? And why’d you return money you had already given away?”
I don’t know why I asked. I knew the answers to both questions. I gave the beggar a portion because I was a beggar once and also because, when I was a kid, I used to love those Greek Myth stories where gods would disguise themselves as strangers pleading for help, bums beggin’ for coins, lepers askin’ for hugs just so they could bless and reward that one person in a million who would finally stop and offer aid. I loved those stories and I’d drive The Old Man crazy coz I wanted him to pick up any and all hitchhikers. “I mean, Dad,” I’d say. “He might be Zues. She might be Hera.”
And I returned the money coz it was the right thing to do. Not coz I am righteous. I am not. I did it because, at one time, like my friend this morning, I was a beggar and a bum. I was also a thief. So, if I don’t want to go back to bein’ a beggar and a bum, then I have to be honest. To myself. And to the cash register.
And, ya never know, that befuddled teen-ager arguin’ strong she knew how to subtract and she had given me correct change, that stubborn adolescent unwilling to accept my cash return, that scared, new, still on 90 day probation, employee who finally grabbed at my offering soon as she heard, “I’d like to talk to your boss”…ya never know, she just might be Zues.