A Life Lesson from A Hundred Dollar Bill

I got my first job when I was 14. I was a “soda jerk.” (Definitely not the most flattering title, but it was a fun job – for the most part.) I got to scoop ice cream, make floats, decorate sundaes, and even yell into a blow horn and announce kids’ birthdays. It was a fun job and also a nerve-wracking job for a closet introvert. But… I managed to come out of my shell and actually had a great time.

I wanted this job because it was a great way to have extra spending money to do all of the things that a typical teenage girl wants to do: go to the mall and buy clothes, go to the movies, and just have fun with it. I had no idea that one of my biggest life lessons was about to sneak up on me in the form of a grumpy old man (my 14-year old name for him) at one of these birthday parties.

The only word that I can use to describe this particular party was chaos. There were at least 20 kids running around, all completely out of control. I had set up the tables, got everyone settled, and brought out the ice cream (decorated clown sundaes that were super cute and always a hit). I stood by for the full two hours that they were there – getting them anything that they needed and making sure everyone was having a good time.

As they were getting ready to leave, the grandpa of one of the birthday kids came up to me and said that I did a great job corralling everyone and thanked me. With that, he handed me a hundred dollar bill. Now, I was only making $3.15 per hour at that time. My typical tips for these kinds of parties were $10-$20. I was absolutely shocked, and I immediately refused it. I said that it was too much, and that I couldn’t possibly accept it. I said that I was just doing my job. Thank you, but no thank you.

I was playing the game that I had seen so many adults around me do: Someone offers to do something nice for you. You politely thank them but say that it’s just too much. They insist. And you eventually accept. 

So that’s what I did.

Except he didn’t respond in the same way that I’d seen modeled before in my life.

He took the money out of my hand and said that one day I was going to say yes the first time when someone offers to do something nice. And with that he left – not leaving a tip at all.

I went into the break room and cried. I felt sick to my stomach. At the time, I was angry with him – so angry. How could he treat me that way, I wondered? He had to know how much I wanted that money and how hard I worked for it. How rude of him to take it away from me. How rude of him not to play the game!

But now I see him as one of my greatest teachers. He taught me the gift of receiving. The gift of feeling that I am deserving of something so wonderful. The gift that it’s okay to say yes and accept kindness from another. To know that I am worthy of that. And also the gift to not feel the need to play the game that I had seen modeled throughout my life. I could ask for what I wanted. And I could fully receive all of the good that was offered to me.

Boy, that sure was a hard lesson to learn! But it definitely stuck with me. Even now, all of these years later, I remember that when my first instinct is to politely refuse something.

Learning to receive is such a beautiful gift to give ourselves. If your natural response is anything like mine was: “Thank you, but it’s really too much.” (Wanting – and expecting – them to make you feel that it’s okay for you to receive something so wonderful.) Then maybe you can change that. Maybe you can say thank you right from the start. Maybe you can let the person giving you a gift know how much you appreciate what they are offering and give them a gift of not fighting them on it. Maybe you can give them the gift of pure love and appreciation and worthiness. Because we are all so worthy of all of the good that comes our way. 

And that’s a wonderful lesson to learn. :)

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A Life Lesson from A Hundred Dollar Bill — 20 Comments

  1. I was teary eyed when I read this. I know that I struggle when it comes to receiving things from people, even compliments! I can understand how you felt when you were a little girl and he walked away without a tip, you must have felt so hurt & shocked from how he went from giving you a compliment to walking away like that. I think that was a wonderful lesson. Loving yourself enough to say “Yes, I accept you gratitude/compliment.” This is something I am working on myself. Thankyou for this beautiful post. Have a Happy Thanksgiving:)

    • Hi Mika,
      I am so glad that this post spoke to you. It’s such an essential lesson for all of us to learn. And while this was a hard way to learn it, it definitely impacted me greatly. It’s so funny how we can offer compliments to everyone, but when one comes back to us – our initial response is to deflect it or minimize it somehow. And when we become conscious of that, we can begin to change that part of us and realize that we are completely worth every bit of good that comes our way. Hugs!
      Jodi – Soul Speak recently posted..Shared Wisdom – Be Nice To YourselfMy Profile

  2. Wow, Jodi…What an indelible experience this must have been for you. All I can say is wow. What a learning experience. That resonates with me and those around me, because, yes, we are conditioned to refuse…I hear people say things like, “You shouldn’t have…” when getting gifts…Really? So when someone says that, should we take it back? I joke with people when they say that, to illustrate this point, but it is done with an obvious smirk on my face and obvious humor…

    It takes some time — time to realize what you are worth, and what you accept from other people. I mean, when I earn a paycheck, I don’t contact payroll and say, “You shouldn’t have…” right? It’s harder to accept, I think, when you provide a service and get paid for it. I guess it just takes time to mentally overcome that conditioned feeling of “I’m not worthy of receiving…”

    Great post, and great story. Thank you for sharing.
    Victor recently posted..A Worthy Investment | VictorSchueller.comMy Profile

    • Hi Victor!
      You’re absolutely right that it all comes back to self worth – what we really feel we are worthy of receiving. And also pushing through the social mores that we have been conditioned to just accept rather than question. I love that we get to decide how to live and what to accept and what to receive. And I definitely am more conscious of this now, thankfully!
      Jodi – Soul Speak recently posted..Shared Wisdom – Be Nice To YourselfMy Profile

  3. Beautiful story, Jodi! I can only imagine how shocking it was when the old man took back the money and talked to you like that! It’s such a lesson for most of us to learn, that we deserve to receive good. I was just with a group of women, and one of the things we talked about was how “unnatural” it is for us to receive, when we’re so used to being on the giving end. So, thank you again for this story and for its underlying lesson.
    Alice Chan recently posted..OMG for the Holidays (Week 1)My Profile

  4. Gosh this hit a nerve with me Jodi. I’ve always found it easier to give rather than to receive. Even something like a small compliment used to have me squirming with embarrassment until I learnt to simply say ‘Thank you.’
    That was a harsh lesson for you to learn though!
    Carolyn Hughes recently posted..Love you forever.My Profile

  5. Love this line, Jodi – “Learning to receive is such a beautiful gift to give ourselves.” It is something that I needed to learn as well. Never had quite a lesson like that and something I’m sure you will never forget. It makes others feel good to give, so when we gracefully receive we honor ourselves as well. thanks for sharing a great story and lesson for all of us.
    Cathy Taughinbaugh recently posted..May You Wake with GratitudeMy Profile

  6. This really struck a chord with me, as this year I’ve been training myself to receive compliments gracefully, but hadn’t thought about receiving in other arenas. Thanks for another wonderful post, Jodi!
    Gigi recently posted..F is for FlaxseedMy Profile