It was late and I was at the grocery store, picking up some items we forgot during the weekly shop. I got to the checkout just as a father and son were packing up. The father was trying to keep track of his boy while cramming their groceries into one plastic bag. The son had some learning disabilities and was obviously ready to go home.
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She rolled her eyes, "I asked you before and you said one. 5 cents."
"Oh, I hadn't realized..." he said, rummaging through his pockets with one hand and trying to stop his son with the other.
The son was unpacking as many groceries as he could, "You can fit the milk in here, Dad" he said, and he handed over the emptied bag, smiling.
My wallet was at the ready, cash, too (if shopping math had been a subject, I would have aced it). I fished out an extra coin and handed it over to the cashier.
"Here", I said, handing over a coin. She didn't take it. I looked up, and was caught in the glare of the cashier.
"What's this?" she asked.
"5 cents", I said.
"Wait your turn" she barked.
"You know, for that man's bag?" I continued.
She narrowed her eyes even more, but she took the coin and passed a bag to the father.
Now, I wasn't expecting a champagne toast or a gold medal for my deed, but a scolding? I was stunned and indignant, and I stomped halfway home. What bother trying to help, I wondered, if people are just going to be rude?
Then a still small voice whispered, "Do your deeds in secret."
I stopped dead in my tracks. No, I hadn't set out to be praised for doing a good deed, and I hadn't made a big showy deal out of it, but I had expected some kind of positive acknowledgement. And I complained about how someone reacted to my action, and I grumbled that I shouldn't bother trying anymore.
Who did I think I was, anyway?
If Mary had worried about what other people thought, she wouldn't have washed the Saviour's feet. And if Jesus had let negative feedback stop him, he wouldn't have ended up at the cross. Their actions were motivated by knowledge that they were doing the right thing, not by praise or an Earthy reward, and they did not let criticism stop them.
Five measly cents. A dull copper coin that you may not even be tempted to pick up off the street, it has such little monetary value. But now when I see that tiny coin, it's worth so much more. It's a reminder to me that the only worthy judge is always watching. He sees me, and that's what counts.
But when you give, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
- Matthew 6:4
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
- Galatians 6:9