Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Charlie Sheen, LeSean McCoy, Andrew Jackson, and Grace

Sorry for two tangentially football-related posts in a row, but this one is truly interesting to me.

Last week, when the rest of the country was distracted by Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, there was a brief story about Philadelphia Eagles running back, LeSean McCoy. Apparently, he was at a restaurant and lets a twenty cent tip on about $60 of food. The owner of the place posted a picture of the receipt within seconds of McCoy leaving and it was on Deadspin in an hour.

A lot of Philly folks got on twitter to defend him, remarking that the restaurant is known for terrible service and there's little surprise McCoy had a bad enough experience to react as he reacted.

McCoy did eventually make a statement - that he indeed had bad service and felt personally disrespected by the wait staff and thus left a twenty cent tip to send a message.

In the middle of all this, Charlie Sheen, of all people, ran across the story and stated he'd send the stiffed waiter $1,000 to make up for McCoy's rudeness. I'm not sure if he did or not, but Charlie's spent far more money on far more frivolous whims - no reason to doubt him.

It struck me as beautiful, the juxtaposition. Here we have McCoy - a professional football player who had to work hard for everything he's got. He went to the University of Pittsburgh (not always a hotbed of NFL talent) and languished, underappreciated, for a while, on the Eagles, playing a position where even the best players are tossed aside at the slightest hint of slowing down. Of course he expects people to earn what they get; of course he's going to send a message with harsh reality.

On the other hand, you've got Charlie Sheen. Yes, a ludicrously undisciplined addict who seems to be miraculously immune to the consequences of his destructive actions - but also a guy who's been at the bottom of a lot of holes. He's practically killed his father with his wasted talent, near-death, experiences and a refusal to learn from them. The guy has burned through wives and girlfriends and hit televisions shows left and right. He deserves almost nothing he has and he keeps getting second chances.

Charlie Sheen is a dude who understands grace - even if he doesn't quite understand it enough. He's leaving a big tip for a bad waiter. Maybe the waiter is just lazy and cruel - maybe he's terrible at his job for no good reason. But just maybe the guy's had a rough day, a rough week, a rough life and he's just trying to do his best. We don't know. LeSean McCoy didn't know. Charlie Sheen doesn't know.

What Charlie Sheen does know, though, is how wonderful it is to be the recipient of grace, to be given something good when you don't deserve it, to have your faults and failures overlooked. Charlie knows what it's like to be kicked when you're down. He knows what it's like to be ostracized and persecuted for your problems. Because of that, the guy exudes grace. He's recklessly, ridiculously generous.

I finished up John Meacham's biography of Andrew Jackson this morning. Towards the end of the book is related a story about the final Christmas he spent in the White House - with the children of his son and nephew running about, enjoying the lavish gifts he provided for them. His nephew's wife, Emily, commented that he'd been spoiling the children - quoting scripture, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," to which President Jackson responded, "I think, Emily, with all due deference to the Good Book, that love and patience are better disciplinarians than rods."

Now if Andrew Jackson - by all accounts one of the least patient people on earth, a man who literally bore the bullets (plural) of failed duelists in his body for most of his adult life - if Andrew Jackson could figure this much out, AND could do so in agreement with one Mr. Charlie Sheen...

...well perhaps its worth considering a good tip for your next waiter, stellar service or not.

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