Full Circle: Be Nice to Jesus
It’s the time for giving. And taking.

Katherine Hepburn was my neighbor. She lived just down the block in one of those fancy-dancy New York neighborhoods where bagels cost $5. Each day, I would walk by her house, see her in the window and smile at her. And she did what a true legend would do. She ignored me.

I got more attention from my doorman. Always a big smile. Always a “Have a good day?” And so, come Christmas, I thought it was only appropriate to tip him.

I asked a co-worker for some guidance on this. What should I tip Diego the doorman?

“Oh,” she said, “you have to tip all the doorman in your building.”

All of them? I never see most of them. Don’t even know their names. But I had a big job and didn’t want to look like a piker. So, I took out a second mortgage and sat down and wrote checks, stuffed them in Christmas cards, and put the names of the doormen on each one. There was Roberto and Ricardo and Miguel and Joe.

The next morning, I gave Diego his envelope. He smiled. And I asked if he could give the other envelopes to the other doormen. He shook his head and looked at the names. And then he shook his head again.

“Mr. Levy,” he said, “you forgot Jesus.”

“Jesus?” I said. “Who’s Jesus?

“Oh,” Diego said, “he’s the substitute doorman who fills in when the night doorman isn’t here. Mr. Levy, you have to be nice to Jesus.”

And, feeling like Scrooge, I went back to my apartment and wrote a check to a man I’d never seen.

That’s when the whole idea of Christmas presents and tipping became a tipping point with me. I tip my hair stylist, my massage therapist, my cleaning person, my mailman. And I’ve always been generous when I’m in a restaurant. With decent service, I always give 20 percent. Sometimes more.

But these days, it’s gotten totally out of hand. I was in the self-serve frozen yogurt place the other day, filling up my cup with sugar-free vanilla. My life is so exciting. I go to the front and get out my wallet, and the young guy behind the desk says, “That will be $4.53.” I pull out a five and hand it to him. And, while I’m waiting for my change, I look down and see a glass jar with a big sign on it. The sign said “TIPS.”

Tips? Why would I be tipping somebody who didn’t do a thing? I did all the work here. I walked to the back of the place, I served myself yogurt, I walked to the front of the place and gave him money. The only thing he had to do was give me change. And for this I was supposed to tip him? Can I write him off as a dependent on my income tax?

“You have to tip these people,” a friend of mine said. “They don’t make very much money.” So this is my problem now? Because the yogurt place doesn’t pay their people enough money, I have to subsidize? How about healthcare? Maybe I should give them healthcare!

I just don’t understand it. I’ve never gotten a tip in my life. No one has ever said to me, “Gee, you wrote a really good story this month; I enjoyed reading it, and here’s a little something for your trouble.”

Now I know this is the time of year we’re all supposed to be good to our fellow man. And woman and transgender person. But, I think it’s a time for some perspective. And whenever I need some perspective, I think of Jesus. You know, the invisible doorman.

December 2016
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