Have you ever tried to do something nice, and despite your best efforts, it backfired?

Two days ago I was exchanging a faulty vehicle battery at Wal-Mart. Ignoring the unusually long lines of [endeavors to be kind] uncharitable Americans, the
young supervisor, Luke, did his best to maintain his composure and attend to the myriad of needs thrown at him and his team.

During my two trips through the lines to the counter, I heard him make reference to “not having [his] coffee yet.” So as I finished up my exchange and passed by the in-store Dunkin’ Donuts near the exit, I did what I think any other charitable American would have done: I spent $1.97 to buy the guy a medium coffee, and threw some cream and sugar in a bag with stirring sticks and a napkin.

“I’m sorry, I can’t take that sir,” Luke said as I set the coffee down on the service desk counter.

I gawked, repeating his line back to him.

“Yes, I can’t take that.”

I was shocked. Of course, I know what he meant: corporate policy. They’re everywhere. But still, I was shocked.

Luke wanted the coffee, I know he did. He mentioned wanting coffee at least four times while I was in line. But why couldn’t he take it? Most likely because of the dangerous mix of trial lawyers and a litigation-prone populace.

I know how it happened. Maybe not the particular case, but it’s what we all might expect. Somewhere in the not-too-distant past a Wal-Mart employee got caught eating on the job and someone complained; maybe a customer tried to bribe an employee with a gift; maybe someone tried to subversively harm a worker; or maybe it was the all-too-classic “scalding hot coffee” lawsuit epidemic. Whatever the case may be, this Wal-Mart employee could not take a gift from a satisfied customer because of policy.

And 100-years ago? What would Luke have said had I offered the same cup of coffee on a similar -6°F day in the corner market?

“Thanks, Me. Hopper. I really appreciate this. Made my day.”

Now maybe Wal-Mart’s policy is nothing more than they don’t want employees drinking coffee while on the clock. As a business owner, we have similar policies. But I suspect it’s far worse, because Luke could have tucked the styrofoam cup away for later. The reality is, most likely, that previous litigation and millions of dollars in court has forced Wal-Mart to create corporate policies which not only eliminate the negative, fringe incidents, but also the numerous positive ones.

I just read a fascinating article this week on the advances that scientists are finding with using whipworms (Trichuris suis ova) to treat Autism. Yes, Albert Einstein College is actually prescribing that patients ingest pills of aggressive worm larva which naturally attack certain autoimmune diseases. I know, that reads more like an 1864 prescription of using leeches to clean wounds than it does a 2013, first-world medical treatment. But it’s true.

And why do these critters attack the symptoms of Autism? Because some scientists now believe one of the main onsets of Autism and a host of other autoimmune diseases (if not all of them) may be that we’re not dirty enough.

We’re sick because we’re too clean.

I’ve heard this type of premise brought up around the use of anti-bacterial soap before. But Autism?

And possibly a lack of kindness.

The strangest thing to me, and why I felt so let down, is that a policy designed to guard against litigation (or merely to preserve the look of professionalism) actually disallowed me from engaging in kindness.

Policy, if not overseen by a person, will usually always miss the point.

So what did I do with Luke’s coffee? The only thing I can think of.

I turned around and held up the drink. Before the words, “Anyone want a free cup of coffee?” were out of my mouth, a dad with his son raised his hand with a smile.

“I’ll take it!” he said.

He was happy, I was happy…but slightly let down.

The way we attack well-meaning but corrupt policies, whether private or public, is by introducing whipworms. Because while Wal-Mart may have kept me from delivering the coffee, they couldn’t stop me from actually being kind. Though Luke wasn’t the recipient of coffee that day, he was the recipient of kindness, and I know it affected him; the dad who got the coffee also benefited from my kindness; and the line of shoppers behind us were also affected, probably as surprised as I was.

If our attitudes are focused on blessing and not cursing, and overcoming the inferior with the superior, than resistance to virtues only results in a proliferation of their effects. Essentially, efforts to thwart goodness always backfire. It’s a principle of God’s Kingdom.

Wayward policies, as well as diseases, should never rule the day. While they may prevent instances, they are incapable of changing motives.

So when your motives seem thwarted by opposition, do exactly what God did, and descend into the needy lives around you. Get dirty.



Anthony Hayner · 26 Jan ’13 at 12:57 pm

Being a fan of kind people, and medical advances, I really appreciated this. I did a case study not too long ago about businesses cost-efficiency and productivity gains in America. Let me premise this by saying, I am grateful for Wal-Mart and shop there all of the time. However, once you grab an ethical shovel and start digging, some not so “yellow bouncy smiley faces” roll out. Great read, bro!

    Christopher Hopper · 26 Jan ’13 at 2:16 pm

    Thanks Tony! Love your perspectives, and how effortlessly you utilized the yellow smiley face in a sentence.

Daddyh · 26 Jan ’13 at 7:14 pm

Great writ Ck. And Tony wrote pertinent too. Good going,guys!

    Gabe · 26 Jan ’13 at 7:43 pm

    I agree. Good stuff! 😀

    Christopher Hopper · 26 Jan ’13 at 10:35 pm

    Thanks Daddy! Agree with you on Tony: he’s a pretty smart dude.

Mary Trapasso-Ayers · 26 Jan ’13 at 8:26 pm

WOW so much in one article. So well expressed.
Its been said that they believe Fibromyalgia is also and autoimmune disease. I can believe it. Some days I feel like I’m fighting for my life. In fact when I try to explain to someone how I feel, especially on bad days, all I can think of to explain it is to picture the pac man game and how he goes around munching all those little dots… That’s what it feels like to me, that something is just making it’s round inside my body and eating away everything in its path. I’ll take that cup of coffee with a whipworm to go sir. 🙂

    Christopher Hopper · 26 Jan ’13 at 10:37 pm

    Thanks for the encouragement, Mary. And you just got yourself a week’s worth of prayer coming from me. Will be lifting you up.

Jason Clement · 26 Jan ’13 at 11:45 pm

“Wayward policies, as well as diseases, should never rule the day. While they may prevent instances, they are incapable of changing motives.”

Mmmmm… let me soak in that a bit.

    Christopher Hopper · 27 Jan ’13 at 7:00 am

    It’s like a good marinade: set it aside in a cool, dark place for a few days, then remove and cool.

Ryan Paige Howard (RyanHeart) · 27 Jan ’13 at 1:55 am

Good food for thought, my friend and interesting. Thank you for sharing.

I shared this verse with another friend recently and I think you too will be blessed by it. Fits your purpose in your post well…

And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint. -Galatians 6:9

Keep Shining,

    Christopher Hopper · 27 Jan ’13 at 7:02 am

    That’s a gem of a verse! Thank you!

    Here’s another that spoke to me, challenging me to stay focused and stay positive:

    Hebrews 10:23: Let us hold fast without wavering the hope that we profess: for He who promised is faithful.

Nina "Honee" Hopper · 28 Jan ’13 at 10:22 pm

I would have taken that coffee! That was one darn cold day!

Christopher · 29 Jan ’13 at 1:06 pm

We live in a world where we are driven by immediate results. We have to be
driven by getting dirty, not by results. Success, in any kind of reaching out and
caring for people, is obedience, and not results or numbers. If we have obeyed,
that is success itself. We are dealing with a human soul that has its own
process, not a product. Therefore we can’t expect immediate results. Hopper, what you did
will echo in eternity! Love your blog!

    Christopher Hopper · 29 Jan ’13 at 5:21 pm

    Wow – beautifully put. And thank you for your kindess.

    Our senior pastor just quoted someone (and I can’t remember who), but the line was, “Obedience is our responsibility; the effects of obedience is God’s responsibility. Don’t worry about what’s not your responsibility, only what is.”

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