How It's Supposed to Be

Over the weekend, football player Chad Johnson left a Canadian server a $300 tip because “Sundays are slow.” Then he took a picture of the receipt and Tweeted it to his followers.

And then the Internet weighed in. As many times as I remind myself not to read the comments section, I always do. It’s a sickness, I’m certain, my inability to stop reading the comments. And although they were many people celebrating his kindness, there were also too many turning a good deed into something ugly. Here’s a sampling of what I found:

He can’t even add properly… he was doing it for attention… those who give publicly are narcissistic and insincere… he’s just patting himself on the back… his server must have been young and hot…

One of my Facebook friends commented that it was not a true act of generosity, but an attempt to receive some sort of credit, and that God intends for us to give silently and anonymously.

Others agreed.

I understand their religious viewpoint even if I don’t agree with it. I have spent a substantial amount of time studying many different faith-based systems. I have great respect for those who believe strongly in and live by their convictions… as long as they don’t use those beliefs to alienate, condemn, or marginalize another human being. Religion as a weapon, to me, is the highest form of hypocrisy.

I added my two cents because the conversation seemed one-sided and because I believe there is always room for more kindness. My intent was to offer a different perspective that might shift the discussion in a more positive direction.

I said,

“Oh, I totally (respectfully) disagree. I don’t think sharing good deeds or acts of kindness is about bragging, it’s about encouraging and uplifting! There’s so much negativity in the world, and I’m always inspired by stories of giving, no matter the motivation. Every time I hear one, it’s a reminder to focus out… again. (And I need LOTS of reminders.) Humans lifting humans. I love it.”

But the tone of the conversation didn’t shift. Not a bit.

Narcissism was mentioned again, and then a Biblical quote (Matthew 6: 1-4, to be exact) about God rewarding those who give in secret was added to the mix.

But… I wanted to say. But…

What if Chad Johnson isn’t a narcissist?

What if he isn’t a Christian?

What if he wasn’t doing it as a publicity stunt?

Why does any of that matter anyway?

I didn’t say anything else, though. The conversation was much bigger than a simple Facebook dialogue. The conversation was about choosing how we see others. It was about condemnation versus kindness, closed eyes instead of open hearts.

It doesn’t matter to me if you give loudly or quietly. To each his or her own.

I find stories of giving inspiring and enlightening. Others may not. That’s okay.

But the judgment and name-calling? I’m not so okay with that.

Why not consider a different reaction? Make a different choice? Because we get to do that as humans: choose. Glass-half-empty or glass-half-full. Condemnation or celebration. Self-pity or gratitude. Scarcity or abundance. It’s not always easy to choose the high road. I often find myself stumbling down the weedy, overgrown path. But the choice is always mine. Always.

In an instance such as this one, I choose not to question the giver’s intentions but to think about the person on the receiving end. Can you even imagine that server’s reaction? Her elation at her unexpected gift? Did she cry tears of happiness? Run home and hug her kids? Settle a nagging debt? Pay it forward? Did one generous act set off a chain of good deeds?

Giving is never about the giver. Giving is about the receiver. Does the giver benefit? Undoubtedly. Do some givers give because they’re in it for themselves? I’m certain some do. But that doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that someone else’s day — possibly someone else’s life — was changed because someone chose to make a difference.

Chad Johnson could have left his 20%, walked out of that restaurant, and never looked back. No harm, no foul, no gift, no news. But he didn’t. He chose to share his wealth and his heart. He chose to make a difference to another human being, to a stranger.

You never know how your actions will impact someone else. So why question the motives?

We have to show up for each other. Every day. Again and again and again. We must. This is the one truest thing I know.

When we separate ourselves from the rest of humanity because of skin color or religion or the size of our bank accounts or the status of our job title, we are treading on dangerous ground. When we say this is right or this is wrong based on a belief system that is not universally shared, when we refuse to look through another lens, when we choose to see the bad instead of acknowledging the good, when we say, “My way or the highway,” we draw lines in the sand that are rife with land mines.

More compassion. Less judgment.

More open arms. Less slammed doors.

More love. Less fear.

At the end of the day, a Canadian server went home with an extra $300 in her pocket because one man was generous enough to think it might make a difference.

At the end of the day, a human being made another human being’s life a little brighter… simply because he could.

Isn’t that what matters?

Shouldn’t it be?

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9 Responses

  1. Katrina, thank you for expressing this important topic in such an eloquent, well-thought out manner. This is what I have been feeling in my heart for some time but have never been able to express it as well as you have here today. This section was profound: “In an instance such as this one, I choose not to question the giver’s intentions but to think about the person on the receiving end. Can you even imagine that server’s reaction? Her elation at her unexpected gift? Did she cry tears of happiness? Run home and hug her kids? Settle a nagging debt? Pay it forward? Did one generous act set off a chain of good deeds?”
    Honestly, I am concerned at the level of hate talk that people dish out on the Internet. When we are criticizing a person for GIVING, there is something very, very wrong. Why even waste the time to condemn his actions? Why not use those 10 minutes to do something worthwhile or productive? And like you said, why does it even matter WHY he gave? He gave. And the recipient’s day was better for it. That should be the focus. Thank you for helping me focus.

  2. Isn’t there also something in the Bible about not judging lest ye be judged?? Just saying. Our humanity should bring us together and make us all realize we are all a little bit broken and cynical and in need of kindness in whatever form it takes. Instead all people can focus on are the differences. I choose to believe in hope and the goodness of humanity and that we truly reap what we sow.

    Nice topic and spot on Katrina.

  3. I never once regret taking the few minutes to read what you have written. You are elegant and thoughtful and thought-provoking. This is wonderful!

  4. Yes yes yes!! Why must people judge an act of kindness? It is beyond comprehension except perhaps that they resent the fact that he is in a position to leave such a large tip. Yes, more love, more giving, more lifting up of the hearts and minds of our fellow humans. Thank you for expressing such a beautiful and loving point of view.

  5. Good for you, looking for the good, Katrina! I have really learned through with my recent experiences at HuffPost, that there are ALWAYS people looking to point a finger, pull someone down, or be negative. I just believe that we should look for the good… Wonderful post!

  6. I agree with you Katrina… My daughter waits tables and you should hear the stories that she tells about the folks, many of them very blessed with much abundance scrutinizing every penny of a tip for goodness sake. I always try to leave a little extra to help make up for those not willing to share the wealth. An you can’t even imagine the difference a $300.00 dollar tip makes in the life of a wait staff person! It huge! And… so deserved and so appreciated!

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