I stopped by the gas station this morning on my way to church to pick up a 32 ounce drink. It’s the same gas station I’ve stopped at a few times a week for the past eleven years. I’ve seen the same lady behind the counter quite a number of times, smiled and greeted her in the same way I did today, and paid for whatever I was there to purchase. For some reason, today was different. I had my $1.19 in hand as I approached the counter, and was surprised when she simply responded; “It’s on me today!” I asked if she was sure, which she was. I thanked her, and I left. It rattled through my head though, not because the $1.19 was a big deal to me, but because it was an unexpected kindness (and because getting something for free always feels good).
After church, my wife and I took our daughters out to eat at Mazzio’s Pizza. After examining the range of coupons and deals, we selected the least expensive option for still getting a meal our children would truly enjoy. As I turned, the young man behind the counter handed me two bowls. I took them without thinking, and then immediately realized I didn’t know why I had them. “What are these for?” I asked. “Your salads.” “Did we get a salad?” I asked, wondering if maybe I hadn’t realized they’d come with the deal we’d selected. “Yes,” he said. Then he looked at our ticket again. “Wait, no. But you can have them.” It was a good customer service move, since I already had the bowls in my hand and the alternative was to take something he’d just given me back. Still, I asked him the same thing I’d asked the woman at the gas station. “Are you sure?” He was. My wife and I enjoyed a free salad before our meal.
As I told my girls the story of my morning, our youngest daughter said she wished she could get something for free. She smiled as I pointed out that, at nine years old, pretty much her whole life is for free. I was buying her meal today. Her housing, her food, her transportation, her entertainment – all free every day. I thought about it though, and I thanked God as we all prayed together for the fact that He actually provides everything for us. As adults we work hard, taking the opportunities He presents, using our abilities, fulfilling the tasks each day brings, and we “earn” our pay, but those opportunities, those abilities, those are gifts from God. Our days are full of free gifts.
All of which obviously pales in comparison to the ultimate free gift. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” We often think of the sacrifices of our Christian lives. The time spent in serving others. The money, opportunities, or comforts we may give up. We can come to see our Christianity as something we do, our lives as a set of responsibilities and obligations. We can forget that God basically looked at an entire world of lost people who had no hope of ever affording the price it would take to save their own souls, gave us everything He had and loved, and said; “It’s on me today!”