This past weekend I spoke at my friend Trevor’s church in Mason, Ohio. They’ve been doing a series this month on my book Redeeming Pleasure, and I had the chance to preach the last weekend. I brought books with me to sell but needed to stop by my bank to get cash for it. Specifically, I needed $5s and $10s to make change for people. When I Googled to find the nearest Wells Fargo branch, I was disappointed to learn they had all permanently closed within a few hours drive. My friend Caleb was with me so I asked if we could use his bank. The only problem was that all of his bank’s branches were about to close early for the day since it was Saturday.
That left us with a more creative option, to go to Walmart and get cash back from a purchase. I walked up to an employee and explained what I was trying to do and asked if she’d be able to give me cash back in certain denominations. She looked confused and told me she couldn’t open a drawer to see what was in it till I made a purchase. I asked her which drawer she’d been using and what she thought might be in it. I told her I was from out of town and couldn’t get cash from my bank. She then asked me what bank I use. When I told her it was Wells Fargo, she said they didn’t have any nearby. Yes, I’m aware of that. Hence why we are having this discussion.
I decided to go to another register and try my luck. I explained to the employee what I was trying to do and she said she would do her best to help me. I put my card in, it charged me for my pack of gum (what else does one buy in such a situation?), and then she handed my receipt to me and said to have a nice day.
Evidently she had already forgotten our conversation. I stared at her until she realized what hadn’t happened. That’s when she said (and I quote), “Why don’t you buy something else and see if that works?”
What? That’s your solution? Eventually, I realized I used my credit card instead of my debit card, and that’s why I wasn’t prompted to get cash back. She looked at me, wondering what I wanted to do next. I asked Caleb to choose another pack of gum, and we tried it again with my debit card. This time I got the prompt I was looking for and was able to coach her through getting me change in lower denominations.
Both Caleb and I walked away laughing at the conversations we just experienced. These employees barely pretended to care about my problem, but the evidence of their apathy was in the absurdity of their proposed solutions. Two employees had offered to help, yet neither offered me a valuable solution. I wouldn’t have had this conversation if I could have gone to my bank, and running the same card twice in hopes of a different result doesn’t show much critical thinking.
It’s easy to fault them, but I was challenged by how often I probably do this to the people in my life. Sure, I’ll offer them a solution, but how much have I engaged my energy into understanding their situation and providing a solution that makes things better for them? Being on the other end of these conversations is a good reminder to choose to engage with others when I’m in a position to help them. How good are the solutions we give to others? Do they reflect someone who has listened, cared, and actively got involved on behalf of another? Or do they check the box for the minimum effort expected of us? Loving others well requires offering them real solutions to their problems.
You may not need help from someone today, but there’s problem someone you know who could use a good solution from you.