The scene is an Applebee’s on a Sunday night. A table of twenty or more is as loud as one would expect. Laughs and stories abound. The waitress reaches one patron, named Aaron, to take his order. “Oh, I’m not getting anything.”
The waitress moves on, but the man named Tim across the table from Aaron does not. Tim leans over to Aaron and says, “Are you hungry?” “Oh, um, yeah, but I don’t have any money,” Aaron responds. He had just come to hang out. “If you’re hungry, get something,” Tim responds with a soft tone. “We’ll take care of it,” referencing him and his wife. “I don’t want you to just go hungry.” Aaron responds with a kind smile and a “thank you,” picking up the menu to place an order.
It’s one thing when someone fishes for charity, but this kind and unexpected “picking up the tab” was entirely another. I watched this exchange that night, and could not stop thinking about it. I was in high school at the time, and still young in terms of financial experience. Most of my “money” was infrequent and irregular from side jobs and the like, so spending twenty dollars of “my own money” at a restaurant was unheard of – let alone spending an extra twenty dollars for someone else’s food on top of that. I wasn’t greedy or inhospitable – but monetary charity of this sort was just not even on my radar. That night, as I contemplated the exchange, I resolved that when I was older, I would make it my goal to use my money in this way – to buy people’s food when they had no money; to pay their rent without telling them; to fill up their car with gas when it was running on empty.
I’m a little older now, and still not particularly wealthy. I don’t make a lot of money, mostly because I’m still in school. As I have gotten older, I’ve learned more about value versus cost when making financial decisions. This past year, I purchased Christmas gifts for a few close friends, and purchased several meals for a friend who was hungry. When I reviewed my spending later, I contemplated how to “justify” these expenditures – then, I looked back on the lesson Tim taught me that night about unsolicited charity and had a revelation. The relevant factor of those gifts and those meals was not the cost – it was the value to both the recipient and myself, measured in self-giving love. This lesson of Tim’s seems difficult to keep in one’s mind in so-called “trying economic times,” but it has finally taken hold and manifested itself in the past few months for me.
Tim suffered a heart attack and passed away tonight, mere hours before these words were penned. Tonight, a Sunday night, I was sitting at Applebee’s with friends when the news reached me. As I sat in this place, my first thought went back to the incredible example he set in that very room years before, and the principle he taught with that simple gesture. As the news sinks in, I believe I can best honor Tim in the reflection of this example of self-sacrificial love.
Tim, you have taught me an incredible lesson with a twenty-dollar meal you bought for Aaron with a few simple words: “if you’re hungry, get something.” It is my prayer that through this story, your example will be remembered and honored. In that moment, you loved a fellow human being with self-sacrificial love – and gave me an example of love which I now aim to emulate.
“Move on. Be brave. Don’t weep at my grave, because I am no longer here. But please never let your memory of me disappear. Safe in the light that surrounds me, free of the fear and the pain.”