“That’s not the price, ” I say emphatically, shaking my head.
I’m in the line at Walmart, trying to buy a binder for our son to organize his geography notes. It’s my second time in 10 minutes going through the check out, binder in hand. Again, I’m in an argument with cashier. I intend to spend $8.00 for the binder, no more. That’s what the yellow clearance tag told me it costs. Now here she was saying, $12.99. The previous one scanned at $14.00.
This time I am prepared for the price discrepancy. I’ve brought two binders from the same section. Two different green binders.
” Check the price on the other one, ” I insist.
There is a rustle from the two people behind me. They are restless Saturday afternoon shoppers. It’s snowing outside.
“Lady, are you buying the binder for your child?”
“I’ll pay for it,” he says, abruptly, but not unkindly. He’s not the one next to me in line. He’s one customer over. I cannot see his eyes.
“No, It’s fine. I just want to know the real price. I’m okay.” I say this frantically searching through my wallet, sorting twoonies and dimes, glancing up quickly at the price display to verify amount.
“No, no no. Here,” he says to the cashier, reaching for the second discarded green binder. ”Just check it out with my stuff.”
A West African accent, about 44 years old, 5’7”, medium built, authoritative voice I’m registering all this in a nano-second trying to decipher the stranger’s identity and intent.
Finally it dawned on me. He was serious. The cashier is relieved. She’s finished with me.
“Thank you, but can I ask why you want to buy me a binder?”
I say this across the top of the head of customer beside me as she hasitly grabs her plastic bag from the cahier.
“Don’t ask,” he says. It’s okay.”
He’s waving his hands,waving away my questions and potential rejection of the offer, his brow furrowed in a look of fatherly concern.
“God bless you.” I say. the benediction flowing instinctively from my lips, but my one hand raised in the universal, voiceless position asking , “Why?” The other hand clutches the grey and yellow Walmart bag with the two green binders. Two for the price of one.
Lent, ‘Tis also the season to give, I thought as I walked away. The stranger’s gestures would have made sense two months earlier, just before Christmas. But now?
Today, in an online Lenten devotional, I read: “Lent also is a journey–a journey with Jesus from his temptation by Satan to his death on the cross. This journey lives from God’s promises and is clothed in God’s grace.” –Marc Kolden Professor Emeritus of Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary Master of Divinity , 1966
If the Lenten journey is one of grace, culminating in the most grace-giving act on the cross, then Lent is truly the “the season to give.”
It’s the season then, not only to give up something, but to give away some things such as my pride in not wanting to accept a stranger’s gift, such as my selfishness in insisting I’m right; you must be wrong.
It’s the season to give all of oneself to Someone who in one garguntuous act of grace gave everything.