Charles Lamb: Dad’s sage advice has served me well - The Buffalo News

Share this article

print logo

Charles Lamb: Dad’s sage advice has served me well

My father had a large garden and quite a few chickens. Dad allowed me to sell vegetables and eggs to neighbors. Anything I earned went into my savings for college.

“Always give people a little more than they expect,” he told me. “Never let people think they were shortchanged. When someone wants five pounds of tomatoes, weigh out five and a half pounds. When they buy a dozen eggs, give them 13.”

That lesson has stuck with me all my life. Now, in my retirement years, I am asked to work for a church 20 hours a week, calling on people, helping with adult education and preaching on occasion. I almost always work 25 or 30 hours. There is plenty to do.

After all, if someone calls and says, “My husband had a heart attack,” I can’t very well say, “Well, I’ve used up my 20 hours this week, but I can go see him next Monday.”

I told the teller in the bank about the idea of giving more than expected. I checked first to make sure nobody was behind me in line. It is irritating when someone at the teller’s window is just chatting while everyone else in line is waiting. I told her about the lesson I learned from my father, and how I was still practicing it in my retirement years.

She liked it, and said, “That’s the way it should be!”

That was the perfect opening for me to say, “But I just cashed a check for $100 and you gave me only $100, not $101.”

Somehow the bank had not yet learned Dad’s philosophy about going the extra mile.

But there is a man in our community who evidently learned the same lesson. One day I hired him to trim bushes and do some yard work. I don’t remember the exact wage he was charging, but let’s say it was $15 per hour. I asked him how long the job would take and he said probably three hours. Since I had to leave and would be gone when he finished, I paid him before I left.

When I returned home I saw that he had done an excellent job. But that night the phone rang. He said, “I only worked two hours and 45 minutes today. So I have to come back and work some more or give you a refund.”

What honesty! Of course, I told him to keep the rest. He wanted to do at least as much as he had been paid to do. That’s not going over the limit, but it is better than many others would do, I think. He was making sure I got everything to which I was entitled.

Jesus once said to love our neighbor as ourself, and he told a story of a Good Samaritan who saw an injured man, took him to an inn and told the innkeeper he would pay his entire bill. That’s doing way more than expected. I think I’d just call 911.

I guess I can’t be too proud of giving out 13 eggs for a dozen or working 25 hours instead of 20. I’ve still got a way to go before I love my neighbor as myself, I’m afraid.

There’s a verse in a book, not in the Bible, called “The Didache” (or the teachings), written maybe around 150 AD. At one point it says, “If you can bear the Lord’s full yoke, you will be perfect. But if you cannot, then do what you can.”

I’ll do that, and maybe even do a little more than is expected.

There are no comments - be the first to comment