Typically I wouldn’t call myself an elitist. As far as I can tell, on the surface I don’t have any reason to be. But the other day I had an experience where I felt the sense that I was infected by the mentality despite my sincere efforts to discipline my thoughts and acts in the direction toward universal equality. It was a private experience–one of those moments where I get to see whether I am full of crap or not. Once you read the experience, you might think that I am being a little over-dramatic about it, but to me, it was an experience worth contemplating.
What happened was that I was about to go into Dunkin’ Donuts to use a coupon that was on my Dunkin’s app. In order to use the coupon, I had to use the app. But, my app was low on funds. That meant I had to reload it. But I go to DD so infrequently, that I didn’t want to charge the $10 minimum on my app when I didn’t know the next time I would be there again. There is only one DD in my city and I don’t go to that area much. I looked to see if I had any cash to load on enough just to pay for the coffee. I had no bills, but I had a bunch of loose change that I had thrown in a pocket in my backpack. It was a quarter, some dimes, a couple nickles and a whole lot of pennies. When I counted it up, it was enough to load my card. At first I was grateful, but the next thought that entered my mind was that the people in the store would probably look down on me.
I imagined that people in the line or the server would see me in my jeans and hoodie trying to load bunch of change on my app so I could get a discounted coffee and think I was homeless or really poor. For a second, I almost considered loading the $10 on, but then I checked myself. Why in the world would I be ashamed of using change? Some people would be thrilled to have that pocket full of change and would go into that Dunkin’s excited that they could get a coffee. Realizing that the false shadow of shame that is so pervasive in our society was trying to get me, I shook those silly thoughts off and went in there and got my discounted coffee. I decided to use the situation as a mindfulness exercise. I watched the thoughts that arose as I counted out my pennies to the manager at the register. I could feel myself wanting to apologize to her and the person behind me, but I transmuted the thought by entering into a mindset of gratitude for the lessons of the moment. I could feel my compassion increasing and the whole experience starting feeling really Holy.
The coolest thing out of it all was that the manager looked me in the eye and said, “I appreciate you.” I don’t know why she said it, but it felt very sincere and I appreciated her too. I walked away from that seemingly nothing of an incident keenly aware of the subtle pressures that we put on each other to conform to societal standards of value and worth. Additionally, I thought about how we falsely tie money to those value assignments. Of course this is nothing new, but in that little exercise, I saw how easily that illusion could be unraveled if we simply pay attention to the thoughts that might arise in our consciousness and question their validity. If we can see the falseness in them, it actually doesn’t take much to shift them.
In a time when so many people are talking about the need for change, it is interesting how many of us think that it’s someone else who has to change. I get that in a lot of areas that is probably true. But I come from the the place that change starts with me. In that light, I look to Jesus’ teaching:
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor,’Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.”