Sunday, September 20, 2009

A pen story

A quick story:
I was at Value Village this afternoon, looking for old t-shirts for a reason not pertinent to the story.  As I waited in line at check-out, I watched the cashier, a young man with dark eyes, a mustache and plenty of unshaved whiskers, dressed in a flowered dress, blonde wig, and fancy hat with netting.  I'd stumbled into the Halloween sale at Value Village...at least I hope that was the reason he and his fellow employees were so dressed.  This young man...er, should I say, woman?...stalled the line in order to change the reciept tape in his dinosauric cash register, and the skinny young mother ahead of me with identical pink Halloween t-shirts, was doing her best to be patient.  After replacing the tape, the cashier began looking around for his pen, which he'd somehow lost in the whole tape-replacing episode, and grew increasingly frantic.  I'm not sure what the fire was, but he was sweating beneath that blonde pageboy, but that could have just been the heat of wearing an itchy wig.

So I reached into my purse where I keep about a thousand pens at all times, because after all, one never knows when they'll need to, say, write something.  There are times when I'm with someone who also carries a purse, and that person will say, "Do you have a pen I can borrow?"  Seriously?  Not have a pen in a purse?  I could see not having a pen if I had nothing more than a wallet in my back pocket (though they make these cute little pens that take up less room than a key, which I definitely put inside my wallet, if that's all I have with me), but no pen in a purse?  Of course, my grandmother, who might have gone out with her hair in curlers but never went anywhere without lipstick, would be horrified to know that I don't carry lipstick in my purse.  Chapstick, yes.  That colored stuff that gives me cold sores?  Not on your life.  But that's beside the point.

The point is, I pulled out my pile of pens, grabbed a black ballpoint, and handed it to the blonde, mustached cashier.   "Keep it," I told him.  The woman with the pink t-shirts in front of me gasped.  "I can't believe you're giving him that pen.  You're just giving it to him."  And the cashier said, "Really?  You'd let me have this?" You would have thought I'd given him the keys to my car and told him to keep it.  "It's just a pen," I wanted to say.  But the woman was walking away, busy telling her husband about this lady who'd actually given the cashier her own pen.  So I just smiled and paid for my 99 cent t-shirts and said, "Thanks but I don't need a bag."  Then walked away myself.

When I got home, I told J about it, and he said, "It says more about what people are like these days, than it does about you."  And I think he's right.  How is it that we find it so stunning that someone might actually do something right for others?  I mean, if a single pen could elicit such responses?  I'm no hero, not even in this scenario.  I mean, I checked that I wasn't giving away any of my favorite pens, but a simple bic.  If I'd really wanted to make a big statement I'd have given the fancy one I never let anyone use.  That's the sacrifice that costs.  And I'm woefully poor at making such sacrifices.  But what if I did just give away my things because someone else needed them?  What if I saw a man on a street without a shirt, and gave him the one off my back (ok, so I'd be arrested for indecent exposure, but you know what I mean!)?  What if we all carried extra pens around with us, just so we'd have them to give away when someone needed them.  It'd go a long ways in this world...in making this world the place God intended it to be.

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