Idol Chatter

I confess: I used to be a terrible tipper. My father tried to teach me well, explaining that every doorman, porter, cabbie, waitress, and mail carrier deserved a tip for their services and that the bulk of their earnings depended on tips–a precarious situation since one’s paycheck is thus determined by the often inconsistent kindness of patrons.

Despite his efforts and despite my own long stints as a bus-person and waitress, for years I was reluctant to give freely when it came to tipping. College was one bad influence. Top this with a teacher’s salary post-graduation–and the perpetual worry of living paycheck to paycheck–and a reluctantness to tip well was born.

But a small salary is no excuse–especially if one is a Christian.

In his wonderful article “The Tipping Point,” Ken Gross from this Sunday’s The New York Times agrees, explaining his own ethic of over tipping:

“I do not double the tax or bother with the strict 18 percent solution, or even calculate the exact value of this or that test of service; I do not twist my brain, seeking some perfect balance between cost and expectation, or weigh the consequences of missing the mark. No, mine is an easier solution to settling accounts: I simply overtip …

“It is not bribery, in any legal or moral sense, nor am I driven by some philosophical strain of ambient guilt; this is straightforward recognition on my part that there is an inherent economic injustice in the world, and I do my part to set things straight.”

For Gross, tipping generously–regardless of one’s earnings–is simply the just thing to do.

Let’s also consider “The Widow’s Offering” from Mark 12:41-44 (NIV) for guidance in this area–what I’ve come to interpret as a kind of Biblical guide to over tipping:

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

For me, it’s just recently–the last several years or so–that I’ve truly begun to pony up in the tipping department–tipping generously if not lavishly to just about everybody who graces my doorstep bearing food or packages, among others, especially the many baristas to whom I owe my deepest gratitude for making the wonderful espresso drinks I enjoy each morning.

And not only is it just and Christian, according to Ken Gross–it can bank one some very good Karma as well:

“As a result of this guiding principle, I always have a choice table at my favorite restaurant. I have the services of the superintendent of my building without suffering long, grinding domestic standstills. … I have the good opinion of my mail person, the respect of my handyman, the regard of my house painter, the esteem of my doorman.”

Especially this holiday season, a time when tipping just about everybody is highly applicable, don’t forget to tip often and tip well. And always remember to tip the barista.

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