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Tip for Joy
By Kristina L. Dubs
With $50 cash in small bills tucked in my purse and the commission to tip those who I came in contact around the Austin, Texas NAD Ministerial Convention 2015, I was on a mission! But honestly, I felt a bit nervous and awkward, revealing how shamefully foreign it is for me to tip anyone outside of the typical fumbling with mental math while staring at a white receipt in order to scribble down what I believe the waiter/waitress “deserved” at conventional sit-down restaurants.
Processing and praying about who and when to tip, it was exciting to plan something unexpected for the bored-looking young adult who was clearing tables after our buffet lunch in the airline-garage-sized convention eating hall. For whatever reason, I felt shy to give. But I knew I had to dive in. “Hi, sir. Is it ok to tip you? Thank you so much for helping during our convention! The food was delicious.” His bland face brightened with a quick and quiet “thank you” – confirming my inquiry. As awkward as that blink of a moment was for me, he gladly accepted the tip. My heart felt really happy.
In the restroom after this experience, I tried to quietly express my appreciation for the middle-aged Hispanic lady sweeping the stalls. Even though she had a kind smile, she unfortunately and adamantly refused to accept any cash. She repeatedly stated, “No, no! I could never accept any tips! You’re very kind, but I am just doing my job!” Her humility astonished me. “Oh Lord, please help this not to come across offensively” I prayed.
Contrast to this experience, it was a piece of cake to slip a few bucks to the teenage bellboy holding the door open for us at our J. W. Marriott hotel. With our “Ministerial” lanyards dangling from around our necks, we thanked him for his help. No hesitation. He smiled, nodded, and smoothly snatched the cash – almost expecting the tip. It awakened my thrifty heart to be aware of my surroundings in any ritzy hotels we may stay in the future. Ha!
For supper, most Adventists attending the Convention had only a short window of time to grab a bite to eat before returning to the evening meetings. The closest Tex-Mex restaurant “Uncle Julio’s” was packed with lanyard laced ministers and their families. For the sake of time and limited seating, we joined the other Adventists at the bar to order our typical “water with lemon” and vegetarian entrée. I felt badly for the stressed young adult Asian bar tender (now waiter) as beads of sweat formed on his brow with all of our lanyards screaming, “We need to get back for our meetings!” Probably never before was his bar so full, but the tabs so small. Compared to his typical evening, I realized his tips would be quite puny tending to a bunch of thrifty “religious health nuts,” who drink free “water with lemon” instead of pricy alcoholic drinks and rarely order an appetizer or (gasp!) dessert.
My husband and I decided to tip him $40 between the two of us thus more than doubling the price of the food. When handing him the folded black receipt case with the money, we apologized for taking up his usual customer seats and thanked him for his hard work. He briskly nodded with limited eye contact and pivoted back to the cash register to secure the payment. I snuck a glance at his reaction as he opened the black case. It was the first time he paused that night, eyes widening just for a moment as he saw the tip. Then, he simply kept busily serving waters with lemon water. This was my favorite experience tipping because the context was ripe for Adventists to be represented poorly or positively. I hope this little gesture of kindness fulfilled the latter.
The who-to-bless hunt continued as we tipped the waitress the next evening, wrote a “thanks for cleaning our room/Jesus loves you!” letter to our hotel custodians, and our bus driver on our way out of Austin.
Many lessons were learned. First, money brings smiles, especially when unexpected. Why? Each worker has a story behind his or her uniform and nametag. Each worker has a bill to pay, a debt to relinquish, a family member to care for, a hobby to keep up, a date to impress, a load of laundry to dry, a fulfilled grocery list to bring home, a dream to chase, a life to live. Anything extra is really appreciated. If we weren’t assigned this project, I would not have learned this lesson of selflessness; of opening my eyes to think outside my heart. I so often (and ashamedly) just stare at my own belly button (especially when I’m traveling), look out for my own bank account, and strive to stay within my own steward-savvy budget.
Secondly, humility is absolutely beautiful. Humility is so attractive, as evidenced by the bathroom custodian’s humble adamant refusal and the snatching hotel bellboy. I pray for God to recreate a more humble heart in me to deplete my selfish nature.
Thirdly, as an Adventist Christian, I want to be more giving – not only to represent Christ and our denomination positively by not being so stingy, but also to experience the joy of giving! As I witnessed afresh in Austin, having a designated stash of cash to tip/give to people I encounter is such a blessing to my own heart. There is freedom in giving! My husband and I want to designate a special fund of cash for each trip and budget intentional tipping whenever we travel to be on a hunt to bless others and in turn diminish selfishness by experiencing the freedom and joy of giving!
Kristina Dubs is a seminary student at Andrews University