Amber gave me cash to buy groceries, cuz that’s how we roll now-a-days (Dave Ramsey style). Said cash was to pay for groceries for a father/son camp-out. Bacon. Eggs. Hot dogs. Buns. But not a ketchup bottle. That’d be a waste. No, we’d source the ketchup from elsewhere.
I put said cash in the pockets of my basketball shorts.
Or did I?
I walk inside Walmart and reach inside my pocket to hand the cashier the money. No cash in my pockets. I must have left the money in the van. I instead pull cash from my personal fund with the intention of reimbursing myself later.
Ten minutes later, I search the van for the cash. Can’t find the cash, man. Can’t find the $30 in cash.
I look up just as a Walmart employee passes, towing a dozen shopping carts behind him. The man has a thick beard and leathery skin. He wears a hat that can’t hide the long pony tail sticking out the back.
The man stops, looks left, looks right. He bends and with his pointer and middle finger, he snatches something light green.
My lips part. That’s my money. That‘s my money!
Man again looks left. He looks right before walking away.
Of course, it would be suspicious if I immediately jumped out screeching, “That’s my money!”
Gotta play it cool, man. Gotta play it cool.
So I exit the car, swagger to the man, put as much nonchalance into my voice as a hippy at a beach.
“Hey man,” I say, “I lost $30 somewhere around here. You seen it?”
I was giving him an out, right? An easy way to confess. Sure, he might say he was gonna turn it in to the store or something. But now, he had an easy way to say he was gonna turn it in. A path, so to speak, to honesty.
How clever I am.
The man turns his ashen eyes to mine. Without hesitation, he says, “Haven’t seen it.”
I blink. My breath catches.
I say nothing. We stare at each other in silence.
“You sure you haven’t seen it, man?” I ask.
“Nope.” He turns to leave.
“Wait,” I say. “You sure you haven’t seen it?”
“Look man. I haven’t seen it, but good luck.”
We stand there in silence. I keep looking into his eyes, staring him down like an interrogator, willing him to confess. Immovable, I am. Demanding, I am.
You must confess!
“Good luck, man,” he says.
And he walks away.
No. He can’t walk away. That man stole my cash. That man lied to my face.
My jaw tightens. My blood feels like it’s pumping steaming blood through a fiery engine.
He lied to me. He stole from me and lied to my face!!!!
Despicable. Abhorrent. The worst of scum on the earth. He dared steal my money and lie to my face.
I cursed the vilest of words in my own head as I watched the man walk away, $30 richer than he was before. Richer with my cash.
But I, unlike that vile sinner, am righteous. So I let it go.
Liar and thief.
Well, it’s time to move on. I have a father/son camp-out to prepare for. Time to source that ketchup I was talking about. Buy a whole bottle? Nah. That’d be dumb. Ketchup packets. That was the answer.
And there was a Jack in the Box right there. I’d just walk in and swipe the ketchup packets.
Was I a customer?
Nope. Haven’t had fast food in years, man.
It’s just a handful of ketchup packets, is all.
(It was just $30.)
But what if an employee confronts me as I’m swiping the ketchup packets? No problem, right? I’ll just say I passed through the drive-through and forgot to get ketchup.
Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.
I’d steal from Jack in the Box and lie to their face.
I swipe the ketchup packets. Nobody approaches me. Nobody questions me.
I steal ketchup packets and I was ready to lie to their face.
Feeling smug, I enter the van with my loot.
I still can’t believe that Walmart employee stole from me and lied to my face.
So glad I got my ketchup packets. So glad I didn’t have to tell a story.
It hits me.
I stare ahead, unmoving, holding a handful of ketchup packets. My stomach twists inside me. I feel sick–angry with myself.
The man stole $30–he was the vilest of humans for lying to my face.
I stole ketchup packets and was ready to lie to their faces.
If that man was the vilest of sinners, what does that make me?
Presently, I bought a Bacon Ultimate Cheeseburger and used a minimal amount of ketchup.
Ain’t that the way it goes, sometimes? We look at the faults of others and think how inhumane they are. How could somebody do something so horrible and consider themselves a good Christian, or good Muslim, or good citizen, or whatever?
All the while, we deceive ourselves into thinking that our faults are, somehow, nothing, and it’s infuriating when someone judges our misdeeds as inexcusable.
Sometimes, I really wish others would be more patient with my weaknesses–the way I shout at my kids, or the way I get impatient and frustrated when a project isn’t going as quickly as I want, or the way in which I (an introvert) become (presumably) haughtily quiet at social gatherings.
Can’t people see that I’m trying???? Can’t they see that nobody hates my actions worse than I? Can’t they see the minuscule ways I’m improving?
And why can’t I do the same for others?
So, Mr. Walmart dude. I forgive you. I’m not sure why you took my $30. Maybe you had a good reason. I can’t imagine Walmart pays too well, so maybe that $30 meant you could buy fresh bread for a wife dying of cancer. Or maybe you bought booze with my cash. That’s fine. Really, because I won’t judge you for it. You’ve got your weaknesses, and I’ve got mine. Just because yours might radiate from your breath doesn’t make it more reprehensible than the private sins I commit in my own home.
We both suck in our own way and, I hope, we’re both trying to be better. I know I certainly don’t need people condemning me for the things I’m struggling with. I do enough of that on my own.
And when we do overlook the weaknesses of others as we do our own, that’s living the good life.