I’ve spent a great deal of time pondering the concept of grace. One of the very first grace-filled moments that I can recall took place when I was about seven years old.
Jim was a soft-spoken man and the owner of a small gas station in Vallejo, California that I passed by each day on my way to and from school. On one especially warm afternoon as I was walking home, I couldn’t help but notice the big red soda machine sitting just inside the station. I would simply have to get a better look at the cold bottles of Coca Cola, even though I knew full well that I didn’t have a dime to my name that day. Jim saw me. “Hey Blondie, what can I do for you today?” Jim’s question caught me off-guard. But, I was even more surprised at the words that came out of my mouth. “I think I lost my dime in your machine.” Jim knelt down and intently checked the machine for the “lost” dime. Without so much as a word, he reached into his shirt pocket for a dime, dropped it into the machine, and then handed me the bottle of Coke that I had so longed for a moment before.
My heart pounded like a sledgehammer and my cheeks burned with shame. I walked home much faster that day, full bottle of Coke in tow. I was so upset by the time I reached our house, that I opened the front door and ran directly to my bedroom. Falling on my knees before the bed, I confessed to my mother what I had done. What a premium opportunity for a reprimand! But, I suspect that Mom could see I didn’t need to be convinced of my guilt. Instead of scolding me, she comforted me and told me that she was proud of my confession. Then, in a soft but firm tone she informed me that I would be returning to the gas station, along with a bottle of Coke and an apology.
I died a thousand deaths! But, before I could protest we were on our way back to the station. I can see that little gas station as clearly in my mind today as I did that afternoon so many years ago. Jim stood near the soda machine, almost as if he had been anticipating my return. The sight of my friend brought a flood of tears. Approaching him with my head down, I struggled to express my remorse. I was surprised again, this time to feel the gentle touch of a hand on my shoulder and the comforting words, “I’m proud of you, Blondie for coming back and doing the right thing.”
Those who extend the hand of grace and forgiveness often do much more that they realize. I learned so much that afternoon. I received a blessing from my mother, whose grace was not cheap. She loved me, forgave me, and accepted me. But, in her Godly wisdom she did not spare me the discomfort of owning my wrongdoing. And, I received another blessing from my friend, Jim. He forgave me and affirmed me. But he also demonstrated by his actions something I would never forget. He had purchased the bottle of Coke with his own dime, despite the fact that he knew I was guilty of lying. Then, he waited patiently for my return.