Faithfulness and Joy

Practicing the act of living out of our certain way of seeing creates joy. There is a certain indescribable, but good, sensation that results from staying dedicated to our core values, particularly when it would have been easy enough to do the opposite.

I went to Target one night about a year ago to purchase some supplies for our new baby and to buy a blu-ray copy of Phantom Thread. Brittany and I were in the middle of seeing Phantom Thread in the theatre when we got the call about Norah’s arrival into the world and our viewing experience got cut short. In my sleep deprived state, I thought it was a Tuesday night (it was a Monday). This is significant because movies are released on Tuesdays so, technically, it should not have been available until the next day. Anyway, I went to movie section and found a single copy of Phantom Thread- it did not strike me as odd. I took it up to the register and scanned everything in and noticed that the total was a bit less than I was expecting. I paid, got my receipt, and walked out. When I sat down in my car, I noticed that I had not been charged for the movie. Here’s what happened. That copy was put on the shelves by mistake and the store’s database was not setup to sell that item until the next day, so when I scanned it in at the register it simply did not recognize it. You could look at this one of two ways. One: the store made a mistake and I benefitted with a “free” movie. Two, I unintentionally stole something.

I thought about this while driving home. Target is a large company. Mistakes like this happen all the time. They’ll never “feel” the consequences of this error, they’ll never notice it, and they probably won’t even care if I try to rectify it. It’s okay, view it was a gift.

But I couldn’t view it as a gift, primarily because it wasn’t a gift. Nobody intended for me to have it. And, as a person of faith, I’m called to model God’s love in all I do. Part of love is fairness, living up to one’s word and agreements.

Now, it felt really good not to have to spend $30 I was expecting to spend. We need that $30 whether it’s for food or for supplies for our little girl. That isn’t a throwaway amount of money for us. All the more reason to take the gift, right?

Again, no. If we can’t afford to spend $30 on a movie then we shouldn’t buy the movie. It is not an excuse to steal (whether intentional or otherwise, whether it’s a victimless crime or not). So, I went back the next day, carried the movie in with me, explained the situation to customer service, and paid for the movie. They treated me like I was insane.

I walked out happy. Why? Because for once in my life, damn it, I knew I acted as the person I’m called to be.

That’s joy.