“Eight dollars and five cents!”
I said it loudly and with all the patience I could muster without using unforgivable four-letter words. A commentary on the American educational system was playing out right in front of me.
They both looked at me like I was speaking in tongues.
I repeated myself, “Eight dollars and five cents! You owe the man eight dollars and five cents in change.” I was thinking that this was not brain surgery nor rocket science.
I was shopping at a grocery store, which shall remain anonymous. The nice lady at the register was exasperated. She was telling everyone who would listen that she needed a break. It was time for her break. She was late for her break. “Someone needs to come relieve me, so I can take a break.” Meanwhile the nice man in front of me made a purchase. He bought several packages of bottled water. His total came to $11.95. He did something rarely seen in grocery stores across America. He paid cash.
He gave her a $20 bill.
She tapped in the amount tendered and the machine gave her the answer for how much change he would receive. But before she gave him the money. She tapped in another set of numbers so that she could go on her break. Her “taking a break” numbers erased the man’s change numbers.
A nice manager walked over and said, “Why don’t you go on your break.”
She said, “I will as soon as I give this man his change.” Then she looked at the register which she had now “erased.” She looked down at the twenty like it was some creature that was going to bite off her arm. She started fumbling for a piece of paper to do some mathematical computations. While she was fumbling for the paper and pencil. The manager was pulling out her phone and trying to get her calculator program up and running.
The customer was distracted. He was talking to a guy two checkout lanes over. He couldn’t see the mathematical mayhem brewing at the checkout line.
“Eight dollars and five cents. That is what you owe the man in change.”
About that time calculator girl finished punching in her numbers and said, “You owe him eight dollars and five cents in change.”
I had done the math in my head two different ways. I also “counted the change” back to the nice man in my head. My brain is slow. I don’t have a high-powered processor up there. But counting change, c’mon man! The year I went to work at Sears they introduced electronic cash registers. They trained us on those marvels, which would do a transaction and “tell” the clerk how much to give in change. Our store manager insisted that all the employees needed to be able to “count back” the change to the customers. He was especially insistent that all his High School part-timers learn the “right way” to make change.
These two didn’t know how to “make change.”
I was struck at that moment by the awesome responsibility that rests upon the shoulders of teachers.
Even those of us who teach scripture know, “Not many of you should become teachers… for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” James 3:1.