Calling on Jesus.

There was a lady who came in yesterday to check out. Her fine was too high. In my system, if your fine is over $20, it prevents you from doing much of anything. It doesn’t have to be at 0, but it has to be at least at $20.

I could tell by her fines that this was a regular occurrence. There were a lot of little fines accrued over time. It wasn’t as if she had gotten some videos recently ($1 a day if they are late) and gotten a sudden accrual. I told her she would have to pay $3.50 in order to check out. She goes digging through her purse and finds 40 cents and asks me if that is enough. Uh. No. She was serious. I was too.

It isn’t like the library gets this money. It goes to a General Fund for the city. I have no idea what that money does, but it sure doesn’t buy books. But the point is still the same. If we have a rule where your fine has to be at $20 or below, it doesn’t do any good to alter that rule for somebody. The rules have to apply to everyone, otherwise what is the point of having rules?

She walks out and comes back a little later with some ones in her hand. She gives me her library card again, and it turns out she has $3.40. She looks at me earnestly. It is still not enough, and she knows it. She digs through and finds some pennies, and somehow is hoping that four more pennies will do the trick. I’m really getting stumped here. I’m really wondering what kind of math is going on in her head.

Then she finds a grimy dime, one that looks a lot like a penny, and gives me $3.50. She says she wants to give the four pennies towards her account as well. Our fines are all in 10 cent increments and it kind of messes things up to do anything less than that. I told her we don’t take pennies, so just keep them.

She said “Jesus!” She said it angrily, frustrated.

This isn’t the first time that someone has done this in front of me, and it makes me cringe every time.

I said “He has nothing to do with this.”

She said “He matters to me.” (So what about the “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain” rule, I thought to myself.)

I said that “He has nothing to do with the fact that your books are late. There is no reason to use His name as a curse.”

She was quiet. I put up the fine money and checked her out.

It may not have been my best moment. I wasn’t in a great mood that day. I’d just noticed that my “check engine” light is on, again, after just a month ago spending nearly $2000 to repair my car. My husband and I got into a little argument just before I left for work – something about how he was 3 months behind on a house repair project that had a time limit. Other people had sniped at me for stupid things before her. It may be surprising to realize that working at the library isn’t the safest of places for shy people.

I might have done this exact thing, in exactly this way, in spite of my less-than-perfect start to the day. I don’t have a lot of patience for people who act as if everything always just happens to them and they have no responsibility for their lives. It was her fault that she had a large fine – not anybody else’s. It was her fault that she didn’t have enough cash on her. It was her mistake that she thought that a lesser amount would do.

She wasn’t taking responsibility for her actions, and I think that is the core of my frustration. To then yell at Jesus for it is strange. Jesus heals the lepers, restores sight to the blind, makes the deaf hear, and raises the dead. Jesus isn’t the reason for your problems. Jesus is the solution to them.

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