My husband and I talked again this week on ways to rein in the budget a little tighter, as I’m sure a lot of you are doing. In light of the corners we’re all cutting, I wanted to pass on something I realized anew this week that I’ve been learning from my husband for awhile.
One of a multitude of things I love about him showed up when we were very poor, dating college students—you know, the time in life when $10 spent or gained is a really big deal. I don’t remember which restaurant we were at when I realized this, but I didn’t like it at first: He’s a big tipper. And even when the service isn’t just tremendous.
Now, my penny-pinching college days were only an extension of my penny-pinching youth when I was a Midwestern farm girl, or later a missionary kid. By God’s grace I could be generous with things like my time or my words or my manner, but money was not one of those things (though that’s certainly not because my parents weren’t generous). Overtipping seemed to be unnecessary, indulgent. Or what if it gave a server the wrong idea about his or her less-than-stellar service?
But once as I was completing the ticket myself, I asked him about it. His response: “The buck or two really means nothing to me, but a generous tip means everything to a waitress and her day—and the people who she serves after us.”
This was admittedly a shift in thinking for me. It meant even more when I heard from friends in the food service business that Sundays after church were their lowest tips of the week! Ouch.
But as I’ve thought about it through the years, there are other times when, if I can just think to be generous, it means a lot more to the receiver, often with relatively little extra from me: Letting someone go ahead of me in line. Spending the five minutes to read my kids a story. Rounding up the babysitter’s check. Paying for an unbeliever’s tab. Slowing down in the car (I don’t really get there much sooner at all) to arrive less stressed, and with more safety. Letting someone cuddle on my lap a few minutes longer. Allowing a lengthy description of something rather than cutting the speaker off. Taking the 10 seconds to drop a sticky note in my husband’s lunch. Making the quick call to ask someone about something significant that’s gone on in their day. Or from a different angle, it might look like generosity in the midst of another’s fumbles: “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11).
2 Corinthians 9:6-7 puts it like this, which are good words for me in this economy: “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully … God loves a cheerful giver.”
May you be on both the giving and receiving ends of generosity today.
Janel Breitenstein graduated summa cum laude from John Brown University and began her career with NavPress, where she worked on The Message Bible. After having four children she resumed her professional career (around her momlife) by serving as a writer for FamilyLife. In January of 2012 Janel and her husband, John, packed up their family of six and moved to Uganda to serve with Engineering Ministries International (eMi), an organization that focuses on poverty relief and development, providing structural design and construction management for Christian organizations in the third world. Join us as we all learn first hand, through Janel’s posts, what it’s like to go from suburban America, to answer God’s call in Africa!