KEVIN WRITES: For several years before Big Table, I worked both as a restaurant critic and a pastor, and the fastest way to end any conversation with people working in the restaurant industry was to mention my second job. It took me a while to figure out what had gone wrong in those conversations, but I finally did, with the help of Annie, a waitress who grew up in the same Montana church I did.
"I beg not to work Sunday shifts," she confessed. "We all do."
A friend this morning sent me a link to a blog post that suggests that Annie's experience is far from the exception. It just may be that the people most easily identifed as Christians are often the stingiest tippers on the planet. Here is a quote from the larger post entitled The Bait and Switch of Contemporary Christianity:
"The point is that one can fill a life full of spiritual activities without ever, actually, trying to become a more decent human being. Much of this activity can actually distract one from becoming a more decent human being. In fact, some of these activities make you worse, interpersonally speaking. Many churches are jerk factories.
Take, for example, how Christians tip and behave in restaurants. If you have ever worked in the restaurant industry you know the reputation of the Sunday morning lunch crowd. Millions of Christians go to lunch after church on Sundays and their behavior is abysmal. The single most damaging phenomenon to the witness of Christianity in America today is the collective behavior of the Sunday morning lunch crowd. Never has a more well-dressed, entitled, dismissive, haughty or cheap collection of Christians been seen on the face of the earth.
I exaggerate of course. But I hope you see my point. Rather than pouring our efforts into two hours of worship, bible study and Christian fellowship on Sunday why don't we just take a moment and a few extra bucks to act like a decent human being when we go to lunch afterwards? Just think about it. What if the entire restaurant industry actually began to look forward to working Sunday lunch? If they said amongst themselves, "I love the church crowd. They are kind, patient and very generous. It's my favorite part of the week waiting on Christians." How might such a change affect the way the world sees us? Think about it. Just being a decent human being for one hour each Sunday and the world sees us in a whole new way.
But it's not going to happen. Because behavior at lunch isn't considered to be "working on your relationship with God." Behavior at lunch isn't spiritual. Going to church, well, that is working on your relationship with God. But, as we all know, any jerk can sit in a pew. But you can't be a jerk if you take the time to treat your waitress as if she were your friend, daughter or mother."
The author, Richard Beck, is skeptical that this will ever change. If you attend church and eat out, you can change that. How about setting 20% as your standard tip and round up from there? If you already tip generously, thanks.
By the way, the cartoon at the top is a sketch I based on one commerically available by Elmer Parolini. The credit for the line and the layout are his.