A Burger with a Side of Forgiveness

He’d been excited to try the new café in town, but the waitress was trying his patience.

- Posted on Jun 10, 2013

An artist's rendering of a diner table with a generous tip and an angel doodle

I walked out my front door, looked up at the sunny, clear sky and grinned. I love it when the weather cooperates on my day off! I thought. I was ready for some serious R & R, so I’d start by treating myself to an early lunch at the new café.

Our town was small enough that a new eating establishment was big news, and I’d been looking forward to trying the new place for weeks.

I drove over and sat down at a little table by the window. Burgers! I thought, checking out the menu. I slapped it back on the table and looked around for the waitstaff.

The place wasn’t busy, just a couple of stragglers from the breakfast rush finishing up their eggs. Why was no one coming over to take my order? I probably caught them off guard, I figured. They aren’t expecting any lunch customers yet.

So I waited. And waited. And waited. I’ll just stick my head inside the kitchen and let everyone know I’m here. I got up from my table and walked to the back.

“Sorry to bother y’all,” I said, “but could someone take my order?”

“Why of course,” the cook said, nodding at a young woman with a notepad and pencil in her apron. “She’ll be right out to help you.”

I returned to my seat. And waited. And waited. Now I was getting testy. All I wanted was a nice relaxing meal on my day off! Didn’t I deserve that?

Finally the young woman came out. She was obviously distracted. She didn’t even say she was sorry for the slow service. These weren’t the manners I expected from someone in a small Southern town. She was quickly bringing storm clouds to my sunny day off.

“What do you want to drink?” she asked in a deadpan voice, not even bothering to make eye contact.

“Coffee, please,” I said. “And I’ll have the burger with fries too.”

She got me a cup of coffee and went back to the kitchen. Then I sat there waiting so long I almost checked my watch to make sure my day off wasn’t over. I’d been on the verge of getting up and walking out when she appeared with my food.

She set it on the table with no fanfare, no apology, no smile. Halfway through my burger I reached for my coffee and realized my cup was empty. Naturally the waitress was nowhere to be found.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a restaurant where the waitstaff didn’t come back to check on me, didn’t offer to refill my drink.

I noisily rattled my empty cup against the saucer. The burger was good, but the service was so poor my taste buds were dulled. Thanks to this waitress my special lunch on my day off was a real bust.

As I opened my wallet to pay the bill, I decided it was my duty to write a note to the owners. They were probably anxious to secure a good reputation in the community. That would never happen with a rude waitress.

Maybe she misunderstood her title and thought her job was to keep people waiting! Maybe I’d put that in my note! For now I just got up without leaving a tip.

On my way out, I heard crying coming from a side office. “My husband got fired this morning,” a woman said between sobs. “We have a baby on the way and no savings.” I walked past and saw that it was my waitress crying to an older lady, probably the manager.

All at once I understood. The waitress hadn’t been rude; she was simply beside herself with worry. And I was only thinking about me. My day off, my special lunch. How petty it all seemed now that I knew this young lady had real problems.

I went back to my table and emptied my wallet for her tip. I left all the cash I had. And I wrote a note, but it wasn’t to the owners.

“I’m praying for you,” I scrawled across a napkin.

As I drove away from the café, I recalled other instances when I’d thought folks had been rude to me. How many times had they just been distracted because a loved one was in the hospital, because they couldn’t make the next mortgage payment? From now on, with the Lord’s help, I’d think of others before myself.

I prayed for the waitress and her family all week. I went back the next Saturday and found out that her husband had already gotten a new job. “We’re doing great,” she said, smiling as she refilled my coffee.

“I’m so glad!” I said.

“Yep,” she said, winking, “I got an angel praying for me.”


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