Yesterday, I had an unusual encounter with grace.

On my way home from a local tae kwon do studio is a Starbucks. It’s sort of awkwardly located in the middle of nowhere, just planted next to a highway because someone felt the need to put something other than a gas station at that particular exit. However, it is perfectly located to cater to my family’s collective sugar tooth. So I swung by yesterday evening after class to pick up a couple frappuccinos from their drive-thru, and then head home.

The problem was that when I got to the window, my wallet was missing. I had no way to pay for drinks that had already been made.  After I pulled into the parking lot and tore my entire car apart looking for it, and contemplated the possibility that someone I likely see at least three or four times a week at tae kwon do had gone into my bag and taken it during class, I called my mom and asked her if I had left my wallet at home by accident.

The good part was that I had left my wallet at home, and was sitting exactly where I thought it would be: on the end of the counter, right next to where I usually leave my purse. The bad part was that I had to go explain to the Starbucks barista what had happened and suffer the shame of looking pretty darn daffy.

But when I explained it to Drew, the barista who served me, he just handed me the carrier with the two drinks in it and said, “Here, take them anyway. I’m just glad you found it.”

Note: Not Drew. But some other equally gracious-looking Starbucks barista.

Drew’s response was an incredibly unusual one. To tell you the truth, I was just floored by his reaction. Even after all the things I’ve said about how the church and modern Christians need to show more grace, my experience at Starbucks showed me what it really means to be gracious in an everyday sense, and that I haven’t really been following my own advice. I would not have reacted in the same way at all; had I been in Drew’s place, I’m sure I would’ve been worried about what my manager would say, whether it was really okay, or the fact that I was clearly losing out on tip by just giving someone the drinks.

But Drew trusted that I, a) was honest and had actually lost/forgotten my wallet and wasn’t just trying to get free drinks; and b), might come back and pay for the drinks later even though I had received them for free, no strings attached. It was unusual to see in an everyday context, but it really restored my faith in the good in people, even if it did make me realize a few not-quite-so-warm-and-fuzzy things about myself.

I did go back and pay for the drinks after I ran home and got my wallet, and I left a generous tip along with a note for Drew, thanking him for his kindness. I didn’t really quite expect to learn a spiritual lesson from a Starbucks drive-thru, but last night’s experience will always stick with me as one of the great examples of grace in my life and what it looks like in practice.

Who knew it could be as simple as a barista handing you coffee you don’t deserve with a smile on his or her face, saying, “I understand. I’ll take your word for it, and it’s okay. Just take it.”

Just take it.

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