Not long ago I stood in line at a large discount store and watched a stranger give her daughter a lifelong lesson about how to live.
"Example isn't another way to teach, it is the only way to teach."
As I watched the drama play out before me, I heard a question drumming in my mind: If I were her and were given the same opportunity, what would I do?
It bothered me that I wasn't absolutely sure I knew the answer to that question.
Temptation, loud and clear
Picture the late-afternoon scene. The mom and her daughter stood just ahead of me in the check-out line. Her daughter, probably about eight or nine, waited patiently while her mother wrote out a check and picked up her bag.
Then the mom stopped and said to the checker. "Wait a minute. I bought five things, but I think you only charged me for four. Would you please check to see what I owe you?
The twentyish clerk glanced over the line of fidgety shoppers and replied, "But, Ma'am, you already wrote out your check. We'll have to tear it up and start over. I think, really you paid for all five."
Even though it appeared money might be tight for that mom and her family, she refused the offer. "I can't take something home if I haven't paid for it. Please figure out which one you missed, and I'll pay cash for that one item."
So the clerk sighed, then compared price tags and the cash register receipt. Finally she said, "It's the most expensive one: $12.99."
The woman said, "Okay," and dug out some wrinkled bills for her daughter's new top, all the while explaining to her what was going on. Soon they were on their way.
Was the clerk surprised? Yes. Judging by her look of disbelief I suspect she later recounted that exchange to others.
As for me, I smiled all the way home.
That shopper had every reason to take the freebie and run
That mom judged something more important than dollars and cents.
I don't know if she's a Christian, but she lived her faith--or her principles--and set an example for all of us.
She won't need to lecture her daughter about honesty, because she lived out the lesson in her daughter's presence. I'm betting this was not a one-time thing.
This mom gave her daughter an invaluable gift, one she'll file away in her memory bank for life.
Isn't that the best kind of teaching--and parenting?
We are not who we say we are. We are what we live
That applies to all of us, all the time, especially if we're parents. Our children are watching us--taking mental notes--every moment.
It's as Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
Who you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying.
As believers in Jesus we have an edge. We're not coping on our own. We have Jesus living within us, so we draw strength for living as naturally as grapes draw strength from the grapevine.
(Jesus said) "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." --John 15:5 (NIV)
Here's to living authentically--with all the people in our lives!