02 February 2010

Spiritual Lessons Learned From Eating Out

"Tip? You mean I have to tip for that crappy service? I don't think so. Not a chance."

I use to say that all the time. I use to base my tip on whether or not I received "tip worthy" service. I felt justified in this because, after all, this is a performance based industry, the service industry that is. For years this was my standard, you want a tip, you serve me like nobody else ever has. One day I experienced something that forever changed my though process. What was it, you ask? I'll get to that, but first I want to tell you a little story.

I have these friends that are interns at an organization that I use to be an intern at. They are great guys, young and energetic, and really have a desire to serve God. The other night we went to eat at a large national chain restaurant. We had a great time, but the service was, well, less than stellar. In fact, it was the worst service I have ever seen at this particular chain. If you've ever been in this situation you know that when service is bad you start looking deeper into other areas for problems. You start pointing out the littlest of offenses, things that would otherwise be overlooked. The napkin didn't completely cover the fork, the glass of  ice water wasn't full enough, the bathroom is too dark, and WHO THE HECK picked this carpet? This only leads to more dissatisfaction and more frustration. Soon crazy thoughts start to enter your head like, could I get away with not paying? We ordered our food, but should we just leave? Who do I send a comment card to? Which car in the parking lot is my waiter driving, I'll show them?At this point you wonder how anything good can come out of this experience.

To be honest, most of the time I wouldn't think twice about anything good and just walk out irritated. Last night, however, was a different story. There is something about hanging out with these guys that makes me want to be on my best behavior, spiritually speaking. I don't know if it is my age or what, but I just can't help but turn moments like this into teachable moments. How old of me, right? Maybe it is just a fatherly...um...brotherly instinct. Call it what you will, but I was determined to use this evil from Satan for good.

As we sat at the table waiting, and waiting, and waiting for our checks to come the conversation turned to whether or not some of us were going to leave a tip. I really think there are justifiable moments for some of us not to leave a tip. For me, however, I cannot do that.  My thoughts went to the time God taught me about the tip. How He had drawn a parallel between wait staff earning, or deserving, a tip and us earning, or deserving, salvation. Once the line was drawn there was no turning back for me. I realized that if God would forgive me and give me the free gift of salvation, even though I didn't deserve it, then surely I could give a good tip to someone who didn't deserve it. So I settled in my heart that no matter how horrible the service is, I will always leave a GOOD tip. It's not easy, but I am determined to succeed at this. After all, these people pay their bills with this money. It's not like they're pulling down six digits waiting tables. Besides, I don't know what their day, week, month, year, or life has looked like. Maybe they have a really good reason why things went the way they did with me.Who am I to judge? I am, by no means, perfect!

As I thought about this I decided to share it with the group. I'm not certain, but I think someone may have changed their tip amount. Even if nobody did, it's not on me, I did my part. The cats out of the bag now. Once you hear, your now accountable for. Not saying this is Biblical truth or just a heart conviction on my part, but it seems to fit all criteria for a Biblical truth. What do you think? So, next time your out to eat and your getting bad service see if you are able to handle it the same way again. Check inside yourself to see of there is something you can do in this situation to bring a little joy into the life of another human being. Most people who work in the service industry know when they haven't earned a tip, so show them otherwise. Show them that you are willing to show them grace just as God has shown it to you. You never know where the starting point for change in someones life will come from, maybe it's you.

Have you ever stiffed a waiter/ waitress? What was your worst experience with service?

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