Wednesday, February 22, 2012

thoughts on free gifts

A few days after Valentine's Day, I was picking up some groceries at Trader Joe's when the cashier who rang me up pulled a bouquet of roses from behind the counter and said, "Compliments of Trader Joe's!" as he tucked them into the top of my grocery bag.

So there are two vases of roses on my dining room table this week; one from my husband for Valentine's Day, and one from a guy at Trader Joe's who probably just needed to give away leftover Valentine's bouquets but in doing so, kind of made my day.

See, there's something special about getting a free gift when you least expect it. This has happened to me three times in recent months.

First, after an orchestra concert I went to my favorite tea place in Harvard Square and ordered bubble tea. The guy working there that evening was a classmate from school who remembered me from an Alexander Technique class. We chatted a bit, I asked him what he was up to these days, and we talked about life while he made my tea. When I took out my wallet to pay, he just smiled and said, "It's on me."

Is it weird that I may have enjoyed that tea immensely more just because of his kind gesture?

Secondly, we met some friends at Chipotle for burritos one Sunday after church. This used to be something of a Sunday lunch tradition, but these days things are busy, our lives are all a bit different than they once were, and, well, Nathan and I are "scrimping and pinching" a little and trying not to eat out much. But there we were, and the manager recognized us from our former near-weekly visits and welcomed us back with a broad grin. And proceeded to make all our meals -- all five of them -- on the house.

And now, thirdly, there are the roses.

It all makes me think. It's a remarkable thing when you expect to have to pay for something and then find that it has already been paid in full, maybe by a friend or acquaintance or perhaps by a perfect stranger.

If a bubble tea, a burrito, and a bouquet can make me this grateful for the little things in life, how much more grateful should I be every single day for a free gift that far surpasses these small things?

The gift of God's grace. By all rights there are things for which I should be held responsible, things for which no one but myself owes payment.

And yet...

"While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Something to ponder this Ash Wednesday as I look at those roses on my table and remember the smile a cup of tea brought to my face, the unexpected happiness of a free burrito.

The deep peace of grace, undeserved and yet freely bestowed.

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