Gift Horses (or, Mister Paul Gets Hooked Up)

A pretty late meeting meant an even later dinner tonight.  My earlier promise to the Lovely Lady to bring home something from the fast food restaurant meant that at 10:15 I was waiting, along with a bevy of college students, for the guys in the kitchen to complete my order (#265, the girl at the cash register had told me).  I checked messages on my “smart phone” as I waited, but happened to notice that one of the guys back on the food assembly line (does that term make it seem like it would be a good meal?) was waving at me.  I looked up and recognized a young man with whom I have dealt on numerous occasions in the music store.  As I smiled and waved back, I noticed that another fellow working on further back on the line was a customer of mine also, so I acknowledged him with a smile too.

With all the college kids around, I was feeling a little out of place, but that was only going to get worse.  Within a few moments, one of those men in the kitchen walked up to the counter and asked, “Which order is yours, Paul?”  I gave him the number, curious about the reason for the question.  As he walked back to his post, he called out loudly, “We’re going to hook you up!”  Now, I will readily admit to being out of the loop as far as today’s lingo goes, but I know enough to realize that this phrase can mean a few different things, not all of them operations in which I want to be involved.  The kids nearby chuckled a little at my confusion, but one of them said to me, “You must be somebody special.”  I’m not.  I’m so not special that I wasn’t sure what to expect when somebody was “hooking me up”!  I must say that I was relieved when no young ladies came walking out of the kitchen to talk with me, since that connotation of “hook you up” certainly wouldn’t sit well with a certain beautiful lady waiting for her supper back home.  One man standing nearby, who was of my generation, commiserated with me, saying that he hoped it was something good if they were going to hook me up.  I didn’t have to wait long to find out.

“There you go, Mister Paul!”  The to-go bags were plopped down on the counter with a smile and that was it!  The young man turned and headed back to his station; waving over his shoulder at me, along with his friend, as I thanked them.  I noticed that a few of the college kids were shooting darts at this old man with their eyes, since I had ordered after them, but was getting “hooked up” with my late-night supper before they did.  It was uncomfortable in a way, but I also felt a little honored by the special attention.  I shrugged apologetically toward the kids and headed out the door.  Upon arriving home, the bags were opened, to find that the guys had given me a couple of desserts, which I hadn’t ordered.  Oh!  So getting me my meal wasn’t all of it.  Here was yet another way in which the young guys had “hooked me up”.  I am grateful, but instantly, my brain is asking questions.  Were those really for me or had they made a mistake?  Those guys making minimum wage shouldn’t be spending their money on me!  Maybe they weren’t supposed to do stuff like that.  Would they get in trouble?  For a moment, I wondered if I should go back and try to pay for the extras.  That was about the time I remembered my Dad’s advice.

“Son, if someone wants to do something nice for you…let them.”  He said the words quietly, with the dinner check in his hand.  I was a proud thirty-something adult and the last thing I wanted was to let my father pay for the meal we had just enjoyed together.  I was prepared to argue until he was forced to give me the ticket, but something in his words stopped me in mid “But…”  After he paid for the meal, he explained as we drove home.  “I lost a friend a few years ago because of that very thing.  We had eaten out and he wanted to pay, but I insisted.  I won the argument.  He never spoke to me again.”

I have never forgotten the advice.  Oh, I sometimes slip up temporarily, but not for long.  I like my friends.  I don’t want to lose them over a stupid thing like pride.  And that’s all it would be.  I have thought long and hard about the principle at work here and there are two things I am sure of.  The first is that I don’t ever want to rob my friends.  Allowing them to do nice things for me is not robbing them, but taking that opportunity away from them is.  The second thing of which I am sure?  Pride breaks up more relationships than anything else.  For some funny reason, pride which refuses a gift incites pride (in the other person) which insists that the gift be accepted.  If an argument ensues, one of the combatant/friends will win, but both may lose.  Again and again, I’ve seen pride drive people apart, never to be reconciled.  The little two-letter word “No” placed in front of the words “Thank you” can be so much more damaging than the latter without any sign of the former.

I’m grateful for the friendship shown by the two young men tonight.  I don’t deserve it, but I’m happy to accept it.  Generous spirits shouldn’t be extinguished by the wet blanket of vanity.  May we never forget the great gift of graciousness.  With it, we increase the worth of others, with no damage done to ourselves.

Thanks for hooking me up, fellas!

“Every gift from a friend is a wish for your happiness.”
(Richard Bach~American writer)

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…”
(James 1:17)

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