Saturday, May 10, 2008

You, Your Waiter, and Grace

"Grace is is not just forgiveness and mercy, it adds the undeserved element of blessing." - Unknown

Last night I was sick but I had to go to work. Like, seriously sick. The kids have recently worked through a virus and I thought that I had evaded it (hah!) but it was not to be. Yesterday I came to work feeling weak, with a sore throat, and like my body had just gone through 10 rounds with Mike Tyson (or maybe Randy Couture?). Yet they needed me to work and I needed the cash so I came in. It was so bad that I nearly passed out at one of my tables! I could barely function. (Yes, I know, sick people shouldn't be working in restaurants. For myself I wash my hands even more constantly when I'm feeling under the weather, limit my contact with guest's plates/utensils, and generally take every precaution to be above board in sanitation.) Anyway, don't feel sorry for me being sick and having to work, after all, you've probably gone into work when you've been sick before.

The thing about waitering is that if you are feeling sick, depressed, etc., you are still expected to be positive, happy, fast, and competent. You don't come into a restaurant and expect your server to be anything but on the top of their game. But just like you get sick, so do servers. So before you just assume that your server is slacking (and for no good reason) - look a little deeper. Maybe things are out of their control (a backed up kitchen). Maybe they are feeling under the weather. Maybe it's that time of the month (seriously, I have seen this nearly cripple some of our female servers). Maybe they just had a family member or even a pet die. Maybe they are overwhelmed with exams at school. Or maybe they are in the middle of a deep spiritual battle or some other existential angst. You might think, "Well hey, then they shouldn't show up at work." In a perfect world I would agree. But like a fellow sick worker told me last night after I told her she should go home, "I have to work - I need the money." No ill or distracted server chooses to work when they are somewhat incapacitated because they like giving sub-par service. Usually it's because they have mouths to feed, rent due, or tuition to pay for. Should this be? No. Is it reality? Yes.

As a Christ follower, I am learning to give my server the benefit of the doubt if service is lacking. And really, I should do it with everyone. This is what grace is all about. Cheating on the tip, leaving a nasty little note, lecturing the server about their surliness, etc. without asking them if anything is wrong and inquiring gently about why service is lacking is not justice, is it gracelessness. Most likely you have been rude or angry with a server sometime in your life (as I have). Ask yourself this question: how has this helped them closer to experiencing the love of God? There is of course a time, a place, and way to share feedback with a server. If you were a server, how would you want a guest to voice their displeasure? Is it in the same way that you voice it to others?

The greatest display of grace a table ever showed me was after I had delivered them a truly terrible experience (some parts were my fault, some parts were the kitchen) they told me, "You seemed a little off today, hope everything is OK," and gave me a totally undeserved 20% tip. The fact that they had prayed together before dinner showed me they were "Christians," but their grace to me (by their compassion and their generosity) showed me that they were truly Christ followers. It was truly a God moment for me. They sacrificed their desire and right for justice for something much more powerful. And I was extremely moved by it.

May Light increase!

P.S. Perhaps you are taking your mother out for Mother's Day? Keep in mind that this is the busiest day of the year for restaurants. You server will most likely be very busy. Be gracious!

No comments: