Last week, right out of the blue, someone told me I was a cheapskate, with a ‘very different set of values to theirs’.
Cheapskate: a miserly or stingy person, especially one who tries to avoid paying a fair share of costs or expenses. Etymology: skate – an old horse not worth much, (at least one up from a donkey!)
It came as a bit of a shock and my immediate reaction was one of indignation; I defended myself vigorously . I’d always thought of myself as quite a generous person. I do often tell people that I have a daughter who calls me a cheapskate if I tip anything less than 20%. (‘They’re usually on minimum wage Dad, be generous’.) I have taken note of what she believes, though 20% does seem on the high side.
Returning to the original accusation, the good lady was quite out of order. They’d invited us out to a pub lunch. I disappeared before the bill arrived, but this was because Millie (our beloved Pomchi) had told me very plainly that if I didn’t get her out to a patch of grass very quickly, she would disgrace me right there. My lady friend assumed I’d crept out to ‘weasel out of offering to pay my share’. Custom does dictate that the host usually pays but this possibility seemed to be lost on her. And I took care as I always do to express gratitude at being fed so excellently.
When someone makes an accusation and I’ve recovered from the immediate pain of being criticised, I start to examine myself; am I a cheapskate? No, I’m not. Did I make some assumptions which upset my host? Probably yes. The truth is that I’m always conscious that so many of my friends and family are finding life really tough right now, from a financial point of view. So, hopefully without being patronising, it gives me and my wife (who’s really the generous one) pleasure to take people out and treat them.
The other side to this, though is that I, possibly unconsciously, have an expectation that where the other person is clearly better off than me, they will foot the bill. This is not good thinking; it can, as it clearly did in this case, lead to resentment. It must be difficult for people that are financially well off to have relationships with people who automatically expect them to foot the bill all the time. There’s an important lesson here for me. I need to take time and thought to find ways to be generous to people who are better off than me, even paying my share. It can be quite lonely for them.
From a practical point of view, my record keeping has always been abysmal and I can never remember who paid last time anyway, so I usually grab the bill when it arrives.
While we’re on the subject I still remember, a visit to friends in Liverpool a few years back. We went out to dinner with 4 longstanding friends. I determined I was going to pay; they actually strong-armed the bill off me. I was almost in tears, I was so blessed, when I’d dusted myself down, and I’ve never forgotten it.
In conclusion, I’m a lot of things, not all good, but not a cheapskate whatever the aforesaid good lady might think. What I mustn’t do it to take people for granted. And carry on being generous. My closing prayer says it all.
Find Me Lord – Ted Loder
Oh, Eternal One,
it would be easier for me to pray
if I were clear and of a single mind and a pure heart;
if I could be done hiding from myself and from you, even in my prayers.
But, I am who I am,
mixture of motives and excuses,
blur of memories, quiver of hopes,
knot of fear, tangle of confusion,
and restless with love, for love.
I wander somewhere between gratitude and grievance,
wonder and routine, high resolve and undone dreams,
generous impulses and unpaid bills.
Come, find me, Lord.
Be with me exactly as I am.
Help me find me, Lord. Help me accept what I am,
so I can begin to be yours.
Make of me something small enough to snuggle,
young enough to question, simple enough to giggle,
old enough to forget, foolish enough to act for peace,
skeptical enough to doubt the sufficiency of anything but you,
and attentive enough to listen
as you call me out of the tomb of my timidity
into the chancy glory of my possibilities
and the power of your presence.