Lagniappe: A little extra

Published 7:00 am Saturday, March 26, 2016

One of the great joys, from living in the Deep South, is hearing and experiencing the “gumbo” of the words in our locales.
As a poignant example, we observe from the pen of Mark Twain and his work “Life on the Mississippi, “”If the waiter in the restaurant stumbles and spills a gill of coffee down the back of your neck, he says ‘For lagniappe, sah,’ and gets you another cup without extra charge. It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure” He also related, it’s “a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get.”
Indeed, it is a wonderful word and readily identifies the speaker as being only from our particular neck of the woods. This story of the unintended chicory-laden and caffeinated immersion of an innocent customer bespeaks so much of our culture and attitudes. Such is the very meaning of lagniappe; our getting a little extra something. Yet, the line between lagniappe and greed is a fine one and is easily crossed. It is easily crossed when we have expectations, or demands, rather than the innocent delight of unanticipated generosity itself.
Lagniappe is as much about our attitude, as it is about the act. It is all about the free giving, above and beyond the paid for, or anticipated. The entire proposition brings smiles, and a wink, at the mere mention of the name. Often heard is the example of getting an extra donut for the dozen, a bit more of something requested. For some, their lives are lived within this attitude, where those they encounter are given life’s “extras,” just by knowing them.
They may be teachers, or ministers, or police, or the volunteers at the food bank. They may be relatives, friends, fellow workers, or a neighbor. Each has learned the sacred honor of giving that something extra, to others and to their Creator. They have done, and are doing so, not only with their words, or the minimums of what it is required, but going beyond so, in their thoughts and deeds.
Of course, there are those who are constantly on the prowl for the lagniappe in their lives. Perpetually disappointed, they may never learn that lagniappe is not to be pursued, but only to be freely received. They may never learn the attitude of freely giving themselves up to their God, and to others, which solves this dilemma. Perhaps, it is their pride, their self-interests, or self-importance, which stands in the way.
In this Easter, we must consider the greatest gift of a most enormous lagniappe extra, the sacrifice of the Christ Jesus for our sins. We did not earn it and we certainly did not deserve it. It was not something we could truly anticipate and, we have often rejected it, both by ourselves and by many others. Yet, in the gift, we have received the potential of everlasting salvation and everlasting life. What we do with it, is of our own making.
Again, Mark Twain continues, “When the beau perceives that he is stacking his compliments a trifle too high, and sees by the young lady’s countenance that the edifice would have been better with the top compliment left off, he puts his “I beg pardon — no harm intended,” into the briefer form of “Oh, that’s for lagniappe.”
There is no harm in doing more for others, than expected. There is no harm in providing more, to others, than expected. This Easter Day, give up some “lagniappe,” to God, by attending a worship service and giving that “extra” of ourselves. Let us offer our thanksgivings for our lives, and the generous gifts within them, as we celebrate this Easter Day; the day of the greatest gift to us, and to the world.

By Father Jonathan Filkins

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