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The $0.08 Lesson On Charity

The other day I was shopping in Walmart and took a break to feed my two hungry shopping side-kicks at the McDonald's just across from the check-outs. As we were wolfing down our high quality card-board nutrition, a cu-fuf-fal at the till across from us caught my attention. I watched as a less fortunate fellow argued with the Walmart cashier. He was wearing ragged and dirty clothing, was missing several teeth, and looked pretty rough around the edges. 

There was a lady behind him in line with small children looking annoyed and impatient, and this poor man was short some money for his purchase. He was turning his pockets inside out and looking, obviously, for change.  My initial thought was to jump up and help, but for some reason, my feet weren't moving.  My heart was saying, "Someone help him!" and I debated if that should be me. Then I watched as the cashier took his small bag of groceries and placed them behind the till. 

Disappointingly, he began to walk away, but then he turned and started walking over towards the McDonald's tables where myself and my children sat - filled with more food than we needed, dressed cute-sy for shopping, and with a wallet full of means to pay. I felt guilty. And even more guilty when my thoughts were, "I hope he asks someone else." I was a little scared of him. 

He tried. A man at the table next to me said "no". And quite firmly too. Then he asked me. "Ma'am?" he said, "Could I bother you for 8 cents?" "Of course," I said as I opened my wallet. He gently put his leathery hand on my shoulder, as I handed him a quarter, and said, "Thank you. You're an angel." 

I glanced inside my wallet at the other loose change I could have given him and the $10 bill. I could have kicked myself! He only needed 8 cents. 8 CENTS?! That's all? Why didn't I give him more?

This event turned into a discussion with my children about "where much is given much is expected". My 8-year-old, Taylee, had questions about why no one else helped. I was glad she didn't ask why I didn't give more than a quarter. I didn't have a good answer.

As we finished our shopping and started on the highway the 25 minutes home, I saw him walking along the shoulder, Walmart bag in hand, in the drizzling rain. I imagined for a split second that I was not scared of picking up hitch-hikers and that it was safe to do so. My heart wanted to so bad.

I almost feel sheepish blogging this. I think of myself as Christ-like most of the time - at least I try, but then there's just these certain situations where I have to think, when really, they are no-brainers. Now, my head is saying, Sara! Why didn't you give him the $10 AND offer to pay for his groceries? If I could rewind back, I would do it differently.

Then, the kicker: The next day in church, our closing song was "Because I Have Been Given Much". Taylee was snuggled in next to me singing with her new little hymn book her grandma gave her for her baptism,

"...I shall divide my gifts from thee with every brother that I see who has the need of help from me." (LDS Hymns, #219) 

She whispers, "Mom, that's just like when we helped that man in Wal-Mart, right?" As tears welled up in my eyes, I whispered back, "You are right! You are so perceptive!" I couldn't finish the hymn. I was too overcome with emotion.

I quickly repented right there in sacrament meeting. And because God is a God of love, I felt forgiven, and then He showed me how He had magnified my small effort in the sight of my 8-year-old, a sponge of a spirit, who needed that lesson, even if it was only 8 cents.

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Sara Lyn Baril is wife to a dashing lawyer named Mark, a mother of  five great kids ages 5-15 and a published LDS songwriter with one album to her credit. When she isn't drowning in the laundry piles or lost in the mess of her kitchen, you can find Sara gardening in her flower gardens, writing new music or blogging at!

Photo by Sara 

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