I read an article this week listing the worst celebrity tippers in Hollywood. There were several surprises on the list, including Bill Cosby, Rachael Ray, and Mick Jagger. But the star that stuck out to me the most was Usher. Rather than add 15 or 20% to his restaurant bill, the R&B icon has reportedly become famous for leaving his autograph instead.
My guess is that Usher thinks, "My autograph is far more valuable than a tip. I'm doing this girl a favor." But what Usher doesn't realize is, regardless of the autograph's current value, it isn't worth much. Not to your average waitress anyway. What college student or single mom has the time to go home, snap a few pictures of the signature, post them to Ebay, monitor the online auction for a week, drop a package in the mail, and then wait another week in order to get her cash? She is probably knee-deep in school books. Or diapers. Or both.
As a Christian, I wonder how often I make similar gestures and suggestions that are inherently valuable, but aren't worth much at the time I'm giving them.
- A friend says that he is struggling with alcohol, and I simply say, "Man, you know, I live my life based on the Bible, and the Bible tells us to not get drunk."
- A relative calls to say that she has cancer, and I offer up a flippant, "You're going to be just fine. Remember, God promises to never give us more than we can handle."
- A neighbor confides that he is going through a divorce, and I throw out, "What are you thinking?! You know God hates divorce, right?"
Each of these responses is true and has value...but, in the moment, they aren't worth much. Information is rarely helpful in the middle of chaos. It's like trying to instruct a person how to properly skydive after jumping out of an airplane. It's like trying to teach someone to swim while they're drowning. It's like Usher offering up his autograph at a restaurant instead of a tip.
Don't try to teach during tragedy. Love. Listen. Help. Hug. Support. Share. But, whatever you do, don't teach. Someday your words will be helpful. Someday that verse will mean something. Someday the advice will resonate. But today -- in the middle of their mess -- probably isn't that day.