I made a move toward the coffee pot, the destination for this mid-morning side trip into the realm of the hourly employees. A cheerful wrapper beckoned to me as I passed it on the table – an apple pie in a fancy wrapper, too expensive for casual tastes when one counted its worth against the listed retail price.
“How ‘bout them Niners?” His voice split the room, jerking my mind out of its reverie of all things American.
Mom and apple pie? Isn’t that the old saying?
“Nah. don’t care for the Niners.” I offered back. “First time in my adult life I can honestly admit I was pulling for Atlanta.”
“C’mon man.” He interjected. “What about Joe Montana and Jerry Rice?”
“These aren’t those Niners.” I objected. “This team couldn’t tie their shoelaces.”
The coffee pot was empty (of course) so with an under-the-breath sigh, I placed the pot in the sink and began rinsing it while simultaneously scanning the counter-top for a fresh pack of coffee and a filter.
“You want that pie on the table?” He pointed with his eyes. His words hung in the air for a miniscule second, one of those moments in time you’ll scarce remember and soon forget. By the time I had entertained the thought, he had turned and was once again neck-deep into his vending machine.
I eyed the package on the table. Usually because the pies are expiration dated and seldom sell in time, he pulls them from the machine and gives them away. I was hungry. The pie would be good—maybe great. Add a fresh cup of coffee into the mix and, well, you’ve certainly got something good there. But then again, there was probably one of the hourly guys on the floor a lot hungrier than I was at the moment. And truth be told, they probably needed it a lot more than I did.
“Thanks anyway, but I think I’ll pass.” I went back to my goal of making that fresh pot of coffee.
He stuck his head back out of the machine.
“I pulled that one for you, man.” The disappointment showed in his face. “It’s not even close to being out of date. You’ll love it, I promise.” With a wink he turned back to his machine, leaving me to ponder what it would smell like when I opened it—an aroma of apples and cinnamon. I could almost taste that pie!
I dug out my wallet, remembering before I opened the worn, leather folds that it would be empty. Direct deposit has a sneaky way of leaving you without cash at the most inopportune of moments. I could not offer him anything for the pie. Yet even though it was free, it still didn’t seem right.
“What if I take the pie and then catch you when you come by on Thursday and pay you for it?” I asked. “I’ll even buy another pie from you and boost your profits.”
He leaned back out of the machine, eyeing me as if I had just uttered the inner secrets of nuclear fusion to a native of Borneo. “Why?” He asked. “It’s free, dude.”
The pot was gurgling at this point; coffee saddled with a promise of life returning to normal on this cold winter morning. I could take the pie, sure. But then, somewhere in his mind—or at least in my mind—wouldn’t I owe him something for his supposed generosity? Shades of Hamlet and ‘neither a borrower nor a lender be’ floated up from my collegiate memory.
He closed the machine as I poured my cup a few seconds later, and walked on over, dropping the pie on the counter beside me. “Here man, take it. On me.”
“OK, OK.” I spread my hands in resignation. “I’ll take the pie and help you gather up your boxes and carry stuff out to your truck. Then we’ll be even.”
“Don’t need your help. Don’t need your money. Don’t need your time.” He smiled. “I’ve gotta go. The pie is yours and I’ll see you, maybe, on Thursday. Have a great week and hopefully you’ll see the light about those Niners, bud.” He was out the door and well on his way to his truck before I could respond; no wasted effort or motion in any of his actions.
I stared down at the green and white wrapper. It was indeed, free. I had no money on me to pay for it. And though somebody out on the floor might want it or need it worse than I, he had chosen me to benefit from his gift.
Things might be different tomorrow, or later in the plant down the street. But today I was the recipient of his gift. All I had to do was accept it, pick it up, and walk back my office and enjoy his donation, his grace, with my coffee.
What to do, what to do?
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8