This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Gifts define Christmas. It’s a good occasion to celebrate the virtue of giving.
St. Paul quoted Jesus as teaching, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Jesus – viewed by Christians as God’s supreme gift to humanity – relentlessly emphasized acts of selfless generosity.
The desire to give arises from some deep well in human nature. Tips for waiters, of all things, point to a human impulse to share. Psychologists and economists have long puzzled over the fact that travelers leave tips at restaurants they’ll never return to.
In the book, “Why smart people make big money mistakes,” financial analyst Gary Belsky and psychologist Thomas Gilovich try to make sense of the practice:
“If you think about it, tipping is about as irrational as can be: folks routinely giving away money without a clear obligation to do so, to people they’ll likely never see again, in places they’ll never revisit, for a level of service that may not have even pleased them …
“It’s not enough to say that the self-interest in tipping is the guarantee of good service. Since tipping comes after the meal, that would only explain why people might tip in neighborhood restaurants or other eateries to which they are certain they will return. It does not explain why travelers tip the waiter at a Denny’s in, say, Little Rock, when they know it is unlikely they will ever eat there again.”
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