We get used to the idea that there is always a string attached. Nothing's free. Somehow, and in some way, we'll have to pay. And that idea becomes a way of life. We pay kindness back as quickly as we can and we actually try to avoid being on the receiving end of generosity. "Receiving" just flat out makes us uneasy. Vulnerable even.
So imagine being in my shoes when I saw the sign right next to the cash register at Bainbridge Bakers. First, my name was in large type, right there for everyone to see:
Will enjoy his coffee free during the
month of May, courtesy of a
Bainbridge Bakers angel, with
sincere thanks for help and
What help? What kindness? And who? I needed to know--not just to understand, but to pay back. Even things out. Make it all into some kind of balanced transaction. Of course I don't get to know. I don't have any idea and I'll never be able to pay this one back. Imagine. It's a delight, to be sure. And I'm humbled and grateful--but I still want to account for this, somehow. Who wouldn't? My friend Mike Loudon, the Baker, just laughed at me when he saw the look on face. "Just drink the coffee," he said. And he went on to tell me that he explained in no uncertain terms, to this Anonymous Angel, that, well, it could get expensive. After all, "Bill drinks a lot of coffee." In other words, i fI just do what I do the debt will pile up. And if I stop drinking coffee to avoid that? Well, that seems too frightening imagine as well.
And So I Drink
Even at this moment, as I write, I'm piling up debt. Or, to put it more honestly, I'm letting the kindness pour. And again I'm reminded that this is how the world can work, and our souls can be saved. Love comes to us, with our very first breath. It comes freely. There is no accounting for it and no way to pay it back. That's why the story of God's love is so simple and compelling. We marvel at. We want it to be true. And then we so often turn away--we try to earn it, pay for it, or worse yet, live without it. Picture yourself some daily reminder; make yourself a sign that is clear: Love has come your way. Beauty is there. You have known kindness. No way to pay it back, erase the debt, or account for it in any way. Just accept it. Drink it in. And then? Well, there is "pay it forward . . . " Ah, that's something to think about.