Something for Nothing

September 29, 2013

Donna Schaper

"For it is by grace alone that you are saved . . ." - Ephesians 2:8

We have just been in France.  Our hosts, Michel and Christiane, had invited us over for a little aperitif, which turned into an 11-course meal, with homemade limoncello and way too many plates.  They had picked us up at the airport, delivered my delayed suitcase, and also took us back to the airport, after giving us their car for two weeks.

When it came time to fill up their borrowed car with gasoline, we were nervous about what it was going to cost us—even though our exchange rate with our friends had already tipped to our advantage.  Gas in Europe is about $12 a gallon after you translate euros and dollars and liters and gallons.   Our math was good enough but our French at the pump was miserable.  We mistakenly paid for someone else’s gas.  It is hard to do that but it can be done.  The cost was 68 euros to fill up her tank.  We then had to fill up our borrowed tank which we did because there was no way to explain to the station master without using our miserable French, which he could not comprehend.  The woman whose gas we had mistakenly paid for finally walked away in disgust, what with all the fluster about our credit card and hers. 

Matters worsened. Instead of filling up our friend’s car with diesel, which it uses, we filled it up with petrol, which it does not.  When we landed back in New York, Michel was on the phone, explaining what had happened and how he and his brother-in-law had managed to drain the engine, fix the pipes, fix the tubes, and how he couldn’t wait to come to New York to use our car.

I would say the entire escapade cost about 258 euros, minus the cost of the dinner, for which we were never charged.

People say you get what you pay for but that is not really true.  Every now and then you get what you don’t pay for, if Americans mistakenly fill up your tank or you count 11-course meals along the way.

Prayer

When we try to pay for what can’t be bought or sold, humor us, O God, into a larger simplicity.  Amen.

About the Author
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her latest book is Grace at Table: Small Spiritual Solutions to Large Material Problems.
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