A family of four were heading out to dinner to celebrate their Dad, Joe’s, birthday. Because it was his birthday, he got to choose the restaurant. He picked his favorite little restaurant with, what he thought, was the best burger in the area. Giddy and ready to go, the family piled in the car and headed out.
Upon arriving at the restaurant, there was little parking available. They ended up having to park quite a ways down the street and walk. It started sprinkling, so they swiftly entered the restaurant where they were greeted with a smile. The host told them it would be a thirty-minute wait. Slightly frustrated, they agreed to wait. Thirty minutes turned into forty-five and finally they were seated at their table.
When they sat down, the waiter tossed the menus on the table and asked what they wanted to drink. They all said, “Water, please,” and the waiter scoffed. He said, “Waters all around. Great,” but it was clear he didn’t really think it was “great.”
Events like this kept happening throughout the night. One of the kids spilled their water and the waiter complained and harshly told them to be more careful. The food Joe ordered was all wrong, but he didn’t send it back. One of the kids tried to get them to sing happy birthday, but the waiter laughed and said, “Isn’t he a little old for that?” Mortified, the rest of his family was ready to complain to the manager and rightfully so. The service they received was below sub-par and downright rude. Yet, Joe sat there quietly enjoying his burger and said, “But we’re here together. That’s all I care about.”
When it came time to take care of the check, Joe paused as he began to calculate the tip. About a minute later, he turned to his family and said, “I know it’s my birthday, but I’m going to give our waiter a gift, is that all right?” The family looked confused as he wrote a little note on the napkin and dropped a $100 bill on the table. “Alright, you guys ready to go home?” Joe said. They put on their jackets and started to leave.
They had just stepped outside when their waiter came rushing toward them. He looked shocked and had tears in his eyes. “How did you know?” he said. The family looked at Joe. Joe said, “Something told me that you were dealing with a lot, so I wanted you to know that someone is paying attention.” The waiter started to sob as he unclutched the napkin in his hand where Joe had written, “It’s going to be okay.” The waiter took a breath and said, “My mom started chemo today. And I couldn’t get work off to be there with her.”
The family surrounded him in a hug and began to cry with him. Joe said a prayer for his mom, and they went home.
I recently heard this story and wanted to share it. Although I cannot verify if the story is true, I am struck by the thought that compassion for one another can truly make a difference.
We can never know what someone else is dealing with, but we can always show compassion. Sure, Joe was probably frustrated. Who wouldn’t be in that situation? But he chose to be kind.
Ephesians 4:32 says, “… and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
Let us pray:
God, we give thanks for your presence in our lives in unexpected places. We ask that you give us ears to hear your word, eyes to see your ways, and to protect our hearts from hardening. Help us choose kindness and love over everything.