I walked to the counter and ordered a large diet Coke. In Indiana, after tax, the cost is $1.09. I handed the 17-something cashier a ten-dollar-bill. She punched some buttons on her screen and it told her that I should receive $8.91 in cash back from my payment.
This stymied her. She thumbed through the drawer and picked up some coins. She put back the coins and tried again. She thought about it a minute and then pulled out a five dollar bill and three ones. So far, so good.
And then she dropped the coins into my outstretched hand and said, “Thank you. Please come again.” When I looked at the change in my hand, I realized that she’d miscounted. Instead of $8.91, I just received back $9.06. It was like getting six ounces of diet Coke for free.
I turned to bring this to her attention but before I could say anything, one customer had already ordered a baffling amount of food and another was standing in line with an open sandwich and a frustrated look on her face. I decided that this wasn’t the right time to quibble over 15 cents.
But then, I asked myself if there is EVER a good time to quibble over 15 cents? If she shorted me the 15 pennies, would I really care? If every place I went, people gave me 15 pennies, would I eventually just give in and pocket the cash?
The point is that every day we get over-paid and short-changed. We get a little more than we deserve and give a little bit less than we want. In the end, I think it pretty much balances out. Unless, of course, we spend most of our time and energy feeling bamboozled, stiffed and hustled.
Little things happen in our lives each and every day that can drive us to distraction if we let them: People pull into the 2-second gap we’ve created for safe driving, forcing us to back up even further. Tellers scan the peanut butter twice by mistake. Trash is tossed into my yard by a passing driver. We step into the check out lane that is ALWAYS the slowest. Our neighbor blows his grass clippings on the sidewalk. Life stinks.
Sure, we can carp about the crime. We can cavil concerning the calamity. We fuss over the favoritism, protest the partiality, object the outrage, and take exception to the trespass. We spend so much time and energy on the 15-cent transgression that we lose site of the bigger picture and the blessings that are going on all around us.
Because, at the same time these infractions are occurring, there are so many good things happening in our lives: A manager opens a new checkout lane and calls you over to run your purchases. You see the neighbor who walks her dog every single day with scooper and bag in hand. Friends offer to come help work in your home because they know the burden you have in completing a kitchen remodel. You get an unexpected check in the mail. A flower blooms. A baby laughs. A cat curls up in your lap. A cup of coffee is brewed. The sun peaks through the clouds.
Instead of focusing on the loss of 15-cents, we could celebrate a little charity. We might bless the boon. We should glorify the gift, praise the positive, or even extoll the excellent.
We are fickle creatures. Fifteen cents to the good, we easily forget. Fifteen cents to the negative and we’re all over that.
Perhaps it’s time for a new perspective. Perhaps it’s time for a little change.