It was chilly this morning, but The Boy got dressed as he has every morning this school year, in those long athletic shorts and a t-shirt. At about ten minutes to Leave for the Bus O’Clock, I suggested a jacket might be appropriate. He stuck his head out the front door, recoiled from the cool air, and turned around to get one, but first he offered this.
“What if no one else at the bus stop is wearing a jacket?”
“I doubt that will be the case,” I answered firmly.
“I’ll bet you — ” he said.
We went through a swift list of potential scenarios in which I would pay him this, and he would pay me that, astounding in their complexity. (This was before coffee, you see.)
Finally, I said, “I’ll tell you what. I will give you a quarter if no one else at the bus stop is wearing a jacket.”
He considered the offer, eyes lit up, taking in that there was no risk on his part since we weren’t actually engaging in a bet he could lose, exactly. He agreed and left for the bus stop with the other parent on the premises.
Ever hopeful, he declared, “I guess that means I only get 20 cents.”
With each child spied in a jacket, the amount decreased in the mind of this amazingly shrewd third grader, prepared to cut a deal with me later despite the solid nature of my proffer.
When he reached Negative 10 cents, there was a moment of despair, but as soon as he saw one child without a jacket, he bounced back and said, “That’s 5 cents for me.”
His mother may have shaken her head, but she knew as well as he did that a shrewd third grader could probably have gotten me to pay the 5 cents, if only the child in question hadn’t been shivering, his arms drawn inside his insufficient shirt.
I’m not preaching this week, but if I were, I imagine this little tale would be weaving itself around the Parable of the Dishonest or Shrewd Manager, Luke 16:1-13.