He was standing in the queue, waiting for the teller to count his change painstakingly. A collection of silver and bronze coins. In his hand was a pie and a Coke – lunch for the day. Everyone was waiting with our “superior” notes and plastic money. In that moment, a dozen different thoughts and feelings struck me. I read a story in those few minutes. This man had courage-real and pragmatic. I marvelled at it. How ashamed would I feel paying with little pieces of change? He was actually helping the teller with her cash float, and this showed me he’d worked out a beneficial partnership from a potentially embarrassing context. She appreciated his change, even though it took longer to count.
Then there was his dignity. Shamefaced, I faced my own prejudices. I’ve always struggled with the concept of paying floating, and unofficial car guards to watch my car when I believe each shopping centre should do this for their customers. In that moment, I saw the validity and real value of his work because this man needed to eat, just like me, and who is to say my work is better than his?
And then there was the peculiar realisation of change. All change is a collection of little steps in one direction, just like the pile of change (loose coins) I saw being counted. It all added up to the right amount (the impact) needed to pay for this man’s lunch, and the change needed to satisfy customers like me. I know he had no idea, as he stood with slumped shoulders, but this car attendant taught me a weighty lesson. As I reversed my car, and waited for one of his co-workers to guide me out, I paid, bit my lip and said, “God bless you”, this time really meaning it.