Several weeks ago my husband, Rick, and I ate at a restaurant we frequent fairly regularly. The cute, young waitress who usually waits on us took our orders for burgers and fries. I’ll call her Mandy. As usual Mandy’s smile and bubbly personality brightened our day. We giggled and confessed to her that we shouldn’t eat the fries, but we were going to do it just this once. She joked. “Okay, you’re being bad today.”
Not long after we got our food a couple came in and sat in the booth behind us. Mandy walked up to the table with her big grin. “Hi, how are you?” she asked.
The man, who had salt and pepper colored hair and a pudgy face, spoke in a harsh tone, “I want the steak.”
“Sure, which one would you like?” Mandy asked.
“I don’t want you to put it in the microwave. That will make it tough. Do you understand?”
Mandy’s lips turned down. “Yes sir, which one do you want to order?”
“I want it medium rare. I don’t want blood oozing out of it. I want it cooked right.”
“Yes sir, which steak did you prefer?”
“Oh, I think I’ll take the rib eye. And, I want a glass of water with five lemons in it.”
I assumed he meant lemon slices, and knowing Mandy, I’m sure she interpreted his demand that way also. “Yes sir.” Wrinkles creased Mandy’s brow.
“Oh, and I want the glass filled to about one inch of the top. Don’t put too much water in it.”
“Yes sir,” Mandy said.
As soon as Mandy left I leaned across the table and whispered, “Rick, can you hear that grouch?”
Rick nodded. Later I saw Mandy come out of the kitchen, carrying a plate with a rib eye steak on it. Judging from the strained look she had, I suspected it was for the persnickety customer. Sure enough, she walked to his table and set it down. She hesitated for a moment. Then in a voice so soft it almost was a whisper she asked, “Does everything look all right?”
In my head I heard the drum roll often played in a movie in a suspenseful moment while the audience waits to see if something awful is going to happen. But, the man said, “Yes.”
Thank goodness, I thought. As I watched Mandy go back and forth to that table with wrinkles creasing her brow and her lips pressed tight I realized how the man’s rudeness had put a damper on her day. Perhaps, he was the type person who wants to make sure he takes care of everything in the beginning to avoid problems later. Maybe, nothing had gone right in his life for some time, and he just wanted to know that this lunch would. It’s possible the man didn’t feel well, even though he looked fine. There could be hundreds of reason’s why he sounded so unpleasant. But none of them excused the harsh tone he took with Mandy.
At first I felt so bad for Mandy, but finally I heard her laughing and talking to another customer. Hmmm, she only has to contend with him for about an hour, and he’ll be out of her life, I told myself. At that point I felt moved to get up, walk over to the woman with him and say, “Good luck, lady.” Of course I didn’t.
Today, we returned to the restaurant. We weren’t in Mandy’s section, but she came by our table to speak to us. After we chatted for a moment I mentioned the cranky customer. In an instant she remembered him. “Oh yes, that was horrible. The whole time I waited on him I was so nervous. I was afraid that everything wasn’t going to be all right, and he might explode any minute.”
It dawned on me. Even though I may only enter someone’s life for a moment, I have a brief opportunity to brighten that person’s day by being kind to him or her as a student in one of my daughter’s classes has been to her. My daughter told me, “Mom, this semester I have to take so many books and papers I have a backpack and my arms full, when I start my classes. Every morning one of my students grins real big and grabs the door for me.” She always says, ‘Here I’ll get that.’ It’s a small thing, but it starts my day on a happy note.”
Of course, I also have the option to make someone unhappy, put him or her under a strain or cause that person to be nervous as the rude customer in Mandy's section in the restaurant. I wonder what affect a series of brief meetings in a day has upon a person. It would be interesting to know how a person feels if their quick encounters are all positive or all negative. The impact probably mounts as the moments add up to minutes, hours and possibly even days. The next time I’m in a position to interact with someone even if it’s just for a short time and even if I’m feeling lousy, I’ll try to remember to ask myself, How do I want this person to remember me?
Galatians 5: 22: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”