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INSIDE STORY: ‘Well done, my good and faithful server’

These seven tips for Christians eating out will change your life (or at least make you chuckle).

A quarter-century ago, Robert Fulghum wrote the best-selling book “All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” extolling simple virtues such as sharing, being kind and cleaning up after oneself.

I’ve always maintained — only half-jokingly — that all I really need to know I learned working at McDonald’s in high school. Hell hath no fury, after all, like a hungry human who orders a Quarter Pounder with no pickles and bites into one anyway.

Um, I said no tomatoes or onions … Oops. Would you like fries with that?

Over the years, I’ve forgotten what I thought I learned more times than I can count. Please — I beg you—  don’t ask my children about the “beef, cheese, lettuce” incident at Whataburger.

Alas, in frequent partnership with the letter “C” — as in chicken-fried steak, chips and queso, cheese fries, chocolate cream pie and, yes, cholesterol drugs — I’ve conducted extensive research on the subject.

As I preach to myself, here are seven tips for Christians eating out:  

1. ALWAYS TIP THE SERVER

My mother worked as a waitress at Waffle House for a few years when I was a kid, so I learned this lesson early. 

Servers typically earn less than minimum wage and depend on tips for their livelihood. I’ll never forget how much the dimes, quarters and dollar bills that Mom brought home meant to our family. When you don’t tip, you’re stealing from that person’s income.

In general, we Christians are pretty good tippers, despite well-publicized exceptions. But some of us could do better. Let’s not penalize the server for factors— such as slow service or a wrong order — often out of that person’s control.  In cases where the waitperson obviously is the  problem, perhaps we should err on the side of grace?

2. AVOID THE ‘ALL YOU CAN EAT’ BUFFET

My wife and I tried a new catfish restaurant the other night.

I planned to order a medium-sized combo meal. But the $12.99 buffet option proved too much to resist.  Before I knew it, I had gorged myself with catfish, chicken fingers, fresh-cut fries, round and stick hush puppies, macaroni and cheese, pinto beans, cherry cobbler and ice cream.

When I was done, I felt sick. I had overdone it.  Perhaps this is what Proverbs 25:27 means when it says, “It is not good to eat too much honey.”

3. THROW AWAY YOUR TRASH

Yes, this kindergarten lesson applies to your tray at fast-food joints. Even at a sit-down restaurant, straighten up your mess before you go.

Do this, and you’ll seem like a polite person. (Congratulations.)

Don’t do this, and you’ll seem like a jerk. (Probably because you are.)

4. LAUGH, DON’T CRY

I recently went through the drive-thru of a restaurant that will go unnamed (except to say that it has golden arches). 

Now, because I am a picky eater, this establishment often asks me to pull forward and park while they make my special order. Occasionally, they even remember me and bring out my sandwich. But in this case, I received the same instructions after ordering only a milk shake.

“I didn’t realize you had to cook those,” I might have replied. 

Bad me. That’s not what you want to say, as a friend who asked how I enjoyed my McSpittle pointed out later. 

A much better response: Smile and say, “No problem.” (Hopefully, I’ll remember that next time.)

5. WWJD?

What would Jesus do? This all-purpose tip tends to work in all situations, even those involving pizzerias or pancake houses.

6. REMEMBER THE BAD BISCUIT CAPER

This one may work better for me than others, but when I’m feeling particularly aggrieved, I remember the morning I accidentally made bad biscuits consumed by a few hundred people.

Instead of using flour to roll, cut and bake biscuits, I grabbed a big brown bag of a powdery white substance designed to clean grease vats. I figured this out a few hours later when a manager pointed out that my biscuits didn’t seem to be rising right. You don’t say? Along with the grease vats, I apparently helped clean out a few other systems that day.

Nobody’s perfect, right?

7. IT’S NOT ABOUT THE FOOD

A friend of mine tells about the numerous times his mom cooked dinner and then wrapped it all up before even serving it.

That’s because she’d always accept if friends or fellow Christians invited the family to eat with them — even at the last minute. As she saw it, food could wait. Relationships could not. 

Mark 2:13-17 recounts that Jesus ate with many tax collectors and sinners. But the writer doesn’t bother to specify what food was on the menu.

Hmmmmm, the next time my steak doesn’t come out perfectly cooked (“well done, my good and faithful server”), maybe I shouldn’t get so worked up.

Bobby Ross Jr. is Chief Correspondent for The Christian Chronicle. Reach him at [email protected].

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