Chocolate Bars, Making Excuses, & What We Have to Give

I am married to someone who loves chocolate, especially dark, smoky chocolate. The kind that feels dry in your mouth. And if it’s got something crazy in it, like nibs of chili peppers, all the better. Recently, this fellow expressed a bit of frustration about the renovation project he’s working on because it’s taking longer than expected–and our expectations were already adding on additional time. That is how renovations of old houses go. Alas.

After venting a bit, he said, “I might have to buy some chocolate to get me through this.”

That’s the background for this story–

Yesterday, I had a meeting over coffee in a nearby city, and right near the cash register were impulse-buy chocolate bars. These were what I like to call frou-frou chocolates–certified fair trade, organic, super dark, gourmet chocolate candy bars, and they were rather pricey, as ethically produced things tend to be. (This is one of my soapboxes.)

Remembering what he’d said, I bought the frou-frou chocolate bar to take home and surprise the honey, who was diligently putting up cement-board in the bathroom while I was drinking coffee.

Wouldn’t you know it, while stopped at a red light on my way home, I saw a guy on the corner holding a cardboard sign asking for money.

I glanced over at my purse on the passenger seat, pretty sure I didn’t have any cash in my wallet.

Beside my purse, of course, there sat the chocolate bar, in all of its aesthetically pleasing glory. My stomach sank a little bit.

Really?

I didn’t want to give him the chocolate bar. It was a gift for someone else. Someone I love. It was a fancy chocolate bar. I had paid good money for that thing, in order to guarantee that no child slaves had been involved in its making, for cryin’ out loud! I care about these things!

Besides, I told myself (though I’m embarrassed to admit it), he’s not going to appreciate what it is. It’s really good chocolate. He’s not even going to like it.

Pause a second and consider why I would think that. He wouldn’t appreciate it? Appreciate what it is? What exactly is it? I’m seriously asking: Why did I think it?

Would you think it?

These are dangerous questions to ask yourself.

Needless to say, these thoughts are going through my head pretty quickly, as I’m waiting at the light. I’m arguing with myself about whether to give it to him or not, yes, no, back and forth, should I roll down my window?

I decide to check my wallet to make sure there wasn’t any cash in it.

Nope.

No miracle of loaves and fishes here, in case you were expecting one. No cash.

Then I look up from my wallet and see the minivan in front of me roll down its window. He approaches. They hand out some money. Then a pause, and then a can of Pringles.

A can of Pringles.

Or rather, half a can of Pringles. He opens them on the spot and reaches his hand halfway down before getting one.

The light turns, and the cars are moving.

But really, the half can of Pringles was all it took.

Are you kidding me? I say to myself. The least I could do is give him a chocolate bar.

So I did.

Because that is what I had to give.

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10 comments on “Chocolate Bars, Making Excuses, & What We Have to Give

  1. In acting justly you were given the opportunity to love mercy and walk humbly. I love the well rounded living of Micah 6:8.

    Beautiful post!

    • elizabeth says:

      Well, it was definitely humbling! Thanks for commenting, Susie.

      I wanted to write about this story here as a reminder to myself (and to others) that we are called to give what we have, whatever it may be, even if we’re attached to it. Probably especially if we’re attached to it. We should ask ourselves why it is that we’re hesitating to give something.

      I think it’s too easy to say, I don’t have anything, or what I have isn’t valuable, or I don’t have a dollar in my pocket at the moment to hand over.

      We’ve got ourselves to hand over, don’t we?

      And that’s the only way community can happen.

      • A friend of mine had a very similar experience. Here’s the link to her story…

        http://storiesfor.us/2011/02/14/love-by-pizza/#content

        I think that too often we objectify the person who is standing on the corner with a sign. We assume much about them in order to insulate ourselves from caring about them. To keep ourselves from feeling responsible for them.

        We need more and more to be willing to lay down our lives for people who are hurting!

      • Gail says:

        Adding to paragraph two — What I have is too valuable to give! Even when just talking about a frou frou candy bar. It would have been easier to hand over twice the money but not the special gift. As always you challenge me and I love peaking into your mind and heart.

  2. rowleyfour says:

    Thanks for sharing that, Liz. I recently had an opportunity to give of my time (and patience) to watch a kid who is a challenge. I had been praying about how I could help him and his single mom, and then when I got an opportunity, I almost blew it because I was put-off by how hard it would be – it wasn’t what I was expecting (spending 20 hours with a challenging 3 year old). I thought I’d maybe have them over for dinner, or a play date, or something less intrusive. So yeah, I did it and yeah, it was hard. And now I’m reminded that God asks more of us than we do of ourselves. And then God helps us do it. Thank God.

  3. Stephen says:

    I am proud of you. I know how much you love to give, especially when you’re giving something to J.

    You painted a beautiful picture with your words of the thoughts and arguments that went through you.

    Thank you for listening to God and sharing your chocolate, then being brave enough to share with all of us.

  4. Chad Gafford says:

    I live in Midland, TX, and there is a restaurant there called Rosa’s that is HANDS DOWN the best food with in 100 miles. My daughter and I love it. Frequently we run across people in Midland holding a sign like the one you saw, especially when the oil price is low. My daughter and I go to Rosa’s and buy $40 worth of $5 gift cards at a time. I keep them in the truck and we hand them out to the people holding such signs. This accomplishes two goals…… A) I’m never stuck in a situation when I have nothing to give. B) It helps me to give with a giving heart as opposed to giving reluctantly with the thought that “He’s not hungry, he just wants some whiskey.” Let’s be honest, not only have we not all had thoughts but we all know that there are people who spend our hard earned and easily donated money on booze or drugs. My daughter, Genesis, and I have had a change of heart since coming up with the gift card idea. Yeah, the person with the sign may only want some booze but at least now he has the money for a burrito to go with it. When the $40 of gift cards is gone we go buy more. If there’s a family, they get one card per person. Small children earn an extra card plus whatever cash we may have. After all, Jesus said “whatever you’ve done for the least of these you’ve done for me!” and If I ever met Jesus I’d take him to Rosa’s and ask Him how close it was to heaven!

    Thanks for your page. Very inspiring!

  5. elizabeth says:

    Whew! Lots of replies are in order here…

    Susie,
    Thanks for pointing us to your friend’s story, and I think you’re spot-on about objectifying the folks on the corner, and making assumptions about them, so as not to be responsible for them. I think that’s why Chad’s idea makes a lot of sense.

    Chad,
    Great idea! I like this a lot. You’re right about the things that we automatically say to ourselves when we see folks like this–“they’re panhandlers” or “they’ll spend it on booze”–for sure, I’ve thought that. My husband and I have started to counteract this inclination by saying, often outloud, “it is not for us to judge.” We are called to give, and what happens after that is not in our hands. Some folks would say that we’re “enablers” I suppose, but whatever. Your idea seems to solve all of those difficulties! Thanks for sharing.

    Gail,
    It certainly would have been easier to give over money than that darn candy bar! Even twice or three times the money! It did make me wonder though, what else am I unwilling to give?

    Rebecca,
    You are inspiring! Twenty hours is a long time, and I’m glad you pointed out that it was hard work. Because it is hard work. Being willing to give is really hard, and actually giving is even harder! We shouldn’t pretend that these are easy things. Wow. You amaze me, friend.

    Stephen,
    Thanks, brother. I love you.

  6. Just had this same experience yesterday! Encountering “panhandlers” is new to us now that we’ve moved to a larger city and yesterday was the first time I got stuck at a traffic light right smack dab next to a pregnant woman holding a sign for help. I experienced all those same feelings…wishing the light would change, realizing I didn’t have cash, trying to figure out if giving her something was the right thing to do (seeing that in print makes it sound ridiculous, doesn’t it?!?). I had a handful of quarters and she came to my window. I felt good about giving her a buck in change. But then she had the nerve to notice the two giant containers of liquid in the cupholders next to my seat and ask “Do you have anything cold to drink?” (remember, it’s been over 100 degrees each day here). The weirdest part about my response that I’m still trying to figure out was that I had one giant styrofoam cup of Diet Pepsi on ice (cost me 89 cents) and one very nice thermos-type container of cold water. I said, “All I have is this water.” For some reason, I felt annoyed to part with my cheap cup of soda and willing to give up my somewhat price-y container of water. Weird, huh? I’m still trying to figure out why I responded that way. At the end of the day, the water was probably better for her and her baby PLUS that thermos should come in handy for her, but why did I lie? So strange….
    Also, so grateful for Chad’s idea. I def. want to be better prepared next time. (although my unpreparedness definately served as a heart-check for me).
    Thanks again!

    • elizabeth says:

      Tamara,
      I’m glad you’re setting in down in Texas, and that you’ve stopped by Schmexas for a visit. We’ve missed you!

      This is such a great, thought-provoking story–thanks for being willing to share it! I can so see myself in your shoes, willing to give away my nice thermos of ice-cold water but not my 89 cent Diet Coke. As for the little lie, it’s kind of crazy how it just popped out, isn’t it? I have no explanation for it, except depravity. 🙂 And we are all certainly depraved, as our Calvinist friends like to remind us.

      Thanks again!

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