Addiction, NA, Narcotics Anonymous, Recovery, Spiritual Principles, Twelve Steps

Commitment and “One Penny Tips”

Yesterday afternoon, Amanda, Shaun, and I went to our favorite Chinese buffet here in Tulsa. Though generally not big fans of buffets, Amanda and I enjoy taking Shaun to this one because it is a place where we know he will be happy with the food choices available.

I guess we are what you would call “regulars” there. The staff members seem to recognize us. They are all friendly, and take good care of us as we enjoy our food. Drinks are always full, and empty plates are always removed promptly.

Yesterday, when we arrived at our seats, I found a penny sitting on the corner of the table. My heart sank a little as I realized what must have happened. Someone had left the insult of all insults for their server… the one penny tip.

My fears were confirmed when our server arrived. She was new to the restaurant. She barely spoke or understood English, struggling even with our drink order as a result.

No worries for us. The language barrier was quickly overcome, and we had our drinks. Off to the buffet we went.

As we ate, Shaun became curious about the lone penny sitting on our table. It took some doing, but together, Amanda and I were able to explain why a single penny left as a tip is such an insult. We explained that sometimes people may forget to tip, and that is just part of the business of waiting tables. Also, there are folks who tip generously, and those who are less generous tippers. Again, part of the business.

Then there are those who feel the need to communicate their dissatisfaction with a restaurant’s service, food, or whatever by leaving a single penny as the tip. It’s a way of saying “I am displeased, and I want you to know it. I didn’t forget to tip you. I think you are only worth a penny.”

Sounds pretty mean when it’s put in those terms, don’t you agree?

When our meal ended, we left a tip that was more generous than usual. I had Shaun pick up that penny, and replace it with the money we were leaving. Both Amanda and I wanted to let him know that we always want to show kindness to people. Our server had done well, and we wanted her to feel appreciated.

I’ve never been a server in a restaurant. Therefore, I can only imaging the level of commitment required to persevere in the face of a one penny tip. To receive such a slap in the face, such a deep and personal insult, and smile at your next customer must take everything a person has.

When life hands us “one penny tips”, our response is a direct reflection of our commitment. For the longest time, my response to life’s “one penny tips” was to withdraw. The slightest insult or criticism was enough to send me running. I would retreat, looking for a place to hide and lick my wounds.

Eventually I sought refuge in drugs. Uncomfortable situations were no problem, I’d simply drown any emotions in whatever form of drug was available to me. Life no longer required any commitment. Drugs, on the other hand, demanded my complete and unyielding commitment. They demanded everything of me, even my soul.

Commitment to a life in recovery requires the same level of commitment that drugs once required. Half-measures will not suffice. I cannot live in recovery one day and give free reign to my addiction the next. Nor can I allow myself to become disheartened by life’s “one penny tips.” My commitment must be total, whether times are good or bad.

Recovery does not insulate the addict from bad news. Not every day will be a day full of Skittles and rainbows. In fact, there will be days when it feels like life has thrown into a ditch on the side of the road.

It is on the “one penny tip” days when my recovery becomes most apparent to me. When I see myself living with joy, even in the face of adversity, I can easily see that we do recover.

Have a remarkable day!


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