One thing I’ve learned as I journey through life with less focus on myself and more focus on God and others is that we need to give each other a break.
Last night my family was out for dinner, and our waitress, old enough to be my grandmother, was clearly frazzled from the get-go. It took a long time for her to take our order. She never refilled our drinks or came back to our table after delivering our meal, and we never got our ticket from her.
There was a time when I would have responded in a nasty way to this kind of treatment. As someone who has paid my dues with a multi-pocketed apron on my waist and order pad in hand, I can be quite picky about restaurant service, and shamefully, I’m certain my husband would confirm that I have made a few rude scenes in the past.
But that was the old me, and there was just something about this poor woman that kept me from even the temptation to be angry and irritated. As I observed her throughout our meal, I could see that she was in a bad spot.
She was having repeated trouble operating the cash register and her boss and co-workers were outright mean and belittling toward her when she asked for help, only adding to her stressed state.
She was constantly answering the phone, taking orders and ringing people up, dodging insults all the while, leaving no time for her to come back to our table.
As people around us also observed what was happening with her and her co-workers, I could hear mutterings about a lack of professionalism. My heart just went further out to her.
I was thinking, ‘This is someone’s mom. This is someone’s grandma. She deserves some compassion. Wouldn’t I want someone to do the same for my grandma?’
And though it sounds cliche, or even judgmental, I could tell just by looking at her that she’d had a rough life. Her makeup was thick and overdone. Her eyes were tired and her face weathered. She was much thinner than any grandma I know.
Most women her age are not waitressing, and I had a feeling that if she had any choice in the matter, she would not be either.
While I may have been inclined at another time to leave a smaller tip, or even no tip, the only thing I could think of when considering the gratuity is God’s call for us to be generous. In my head, I could actually hear the words ‘Be generous.’ And not just with the standard 10 to 15 percent.
I asked my husband to let me pay the bill while he took the kids outside. From the line at the register, I could see there would be a bit of a wait. As I stood there, I was intentional about not looking as though I were in a hurry. I made sure that I looked her right in the eye and greeted her frustrated sigh and flurry of tickets – as she searched through a disorganized pile for mine – with a warm smile.
Although everyone before me had voiced their impatience with this woman, I was going to be the one to show her kindness. I was going to be the one to love her.
And she seemed relieved.
She immediately opened up to me to share her story. She told me her age, and how a job as a nurse had ended with an injury. A lack of jobs in her town forced her to drive a considerable distance just to work this waitressing job. I couldn’t help but wonder if her paycheck even paid for her gas.
She also shared that the vehicle she finally had been able to purchase had been damaged by a hit and run driver, and while there was enough damage to make it ugly, there wasn’t enough to exceed her high insurance deductible.
She also shared her frustrations with her job, which included the way she was being treated by those around her.
I just listened while she unloaded with defeated, almost desperate tears welling in her eyes.
And then she told me that she was a Christian, and she knows God has a plan in all of this.
I don’t remember really what I said, but I didn’t say much. I’ve learned from experience that we shouldn’t sing songs to the heavy-hearted (Proverbs 25:20). Instead, I let my behavior do most of my talking.
As I started to walk away, she glanced for the first time at my signed receipt and her face took on a softened relief that I hadn’t seen the whole evening. The look in her eyes was one of disbelief and appreciation – not so much for the money (it really wasn’t that much) – but for the affirmation. For the love.
It’s interesting how it all played out. We don’t normally go out to eat, especially on a weeknight. And if I had my say, we normally wouldn’t eat at this restaurant. But I believe God had His hand on that very moment, and that He knew his daughter, that waitress, just needed someone to remind her that she was ok.
I’m so grateful that God would use me.
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” 1 Timothy 6:18 (emphasis mine)