Jumble sales of the apocalypse: Tips for jesus
Simon Jenkins on tips for Jesus
It was a $4 milkshake – the Oreo Blaster. I’ve never had one myself, but apparently it does serious damage, because at 930 calories it takes four hours to walk off. On this occasion, it also inflicted serious wallet damage, because when the customer who bought it came to pay, he wrote in an extra $100 tip on the credit card slip. Next to that, he wrote “@tipsforjesus”.
A mysterious group of wealthy Americans has been leaving outrageously huge tips on ordinary meal bills for the past 18 months. Just after Christmas, one of them must have had the Guinness Book of Records scrambling to register the biggest tip ever – $11,000 at a bar in Phoenix, Arizona. “Let’s have fun with this one,” said the anonymous wonderworker, as he added the number to a bill for just $89. He then photographed the bill and posted it on the group’s Instagram account, @tipsforjesus, which has the tagline, “Doing the Lord’s work, one tip at a time”.
Comments flowed in: “I can’t even imagine!” “Can I please get a tip? I am in need.” And: “May The Lord bless you and everyone who’s doing this a million times over.”
Despite the Jesus language and the anonymity of the tippers, tipsforjesus isn’t specifically religious. But the pictures posted on Instagram show barmen and waitresses in something approaching religious ecstasy as they count those zeroes. They look like they’ve been entertaining angels unawares – and maybe they have. But where the angels of the Bible came bearing glad tidings of great joy, these angels of consumerism come bearing American Express.
Angels of whatever brand are fundamentally mysterious; they arrive unexpectedly, saying things such as: “Fear not,” “Behold!”, or “Now, what’s my PIN?” and disappear when their mission is accomplished. One author, Emma Heathcote-James, made an academic study of angel encounters at the turn of the millennium in her book, Seeing Angels: “I heard from one man who was waiting to cross a busy road on his way to work,” she wrote. “Seeing a gap in the traffic he stepped out, only for an elderly lady he’d never seen before to stretch her arm out in front of his chest with such force it prevented him from crossing. Seconds later a sports car sped past – which would otherwise certainly have hit him. He turned around to thank the woman, but she was nowhere to be seen.”
In another story, from rural Iowa, two elderly sisters were stranded on a quiet country back road when their car got a puncture. Within a minute or two, a car drew up behind them and out jumped a couple of young men with strikingly blond hair, blue eyes and white suits. (I know you’re thinking this might turn into a Jedward story, but trust me and keep reading.) The young men fixed the puncture, refused all offers of payment, and then sped away, their car getting brighter and brighter until it disappeared in a pulse of white light.
The disappearing angel legend got rather badly dented a couple of years ago when a priest turned up out of nowhere at a car crash in Missouri. He prayed with Katie, who was trapped in the car, and then abruptly left the scene without speaking to anyone else. The firemen attending were convinced he was an angel, especially as their equipment suddenly started working better the moment he arrived, and Katie was soon freed.
But then local priest Father Patrick went and spoiled it all. Instead of sitting at home in the presbytery with a beer and a bowl of peanuts, revelling in the nightly angel speculation on TV, he dropped into the hospital to visit Katie and put her straight about who prayed with her – which made her cry: “I think it was the most disappointing moment of all that I wasn’t an angel or something,” he said. No kidding.
Since angel stories, one way or another, appeal so much, maybe it’s time to realise: You could be that angel. On the train, don’t just idly watch as some dear granny tries to wrestle her bulging suitcase onto the luggage rack. Approach her with supernatural calm, raise the case without effort, and as she takes her seat, glide smoothly into the carriage loo. She turns to thank you, and – lo! – you have returned to heaven. Random acts of kindness, performed with theatrical aplomb, could just be the new evangelism.
Alternatively, buy a milkshake and leave an archangel-sized tip.
This article was published in the March 2015 edition of Reform.