Today’s post includes meanderings that go back to 2007. It is sparked by something that happened this past Saturday.
That was the year we were church hunting. After years at the mega-church, it was time for something more community oriented and smaller. We explored several churches, and found ourselves drawn to two different churches — Cornerstone Wesleyan and Avondale United Methodist. It took us more than a year of splitting our time between the two before we finally found our alignment of service to be at Avondale. By that time we had made friends at both, and the decision to commit to one — the one where we could walk down the hill to church — meant losing regular contact with friends at Cornerstone.
So when Cornerstone started having monthly men’s fellowship breakfasts, I started attending, to reestablish friendships, and enjoy new ones. After a few months Nathan joined me and the two of us enjoyed the establishment of new friendships along with the reestablishment of old. I enjoyed how the group took to Nathan as a one of the men, youth though he was. (Side note: One of the men on Saturday made a comment how much they appreciated having him there, and having seen him grow, both in height and person, in the past three years.)
The breakfasts originally took place at Hometown Buffet on Barry Road. There we fellowshipped, and interacted with the wonderful service staff there. One of the people we met with, and developed friendship with, was the manager of the store, Bernie. It was a joy to see and converse with her when we had our breakfast each month. When the restaurant finally closed, we lost contact with her, and like the sudden disappearance of a friend, we felt ourselves at a loss, and lifted prayers for her.
When the Hometown Buffet closed they moved the breakfast to the Golden Corral in Tiffany Springs. There we again noticed and made contact with the waitstaff.
Which loops me to this past Saturday — actually a month ago this past Saturday. The Golden Corral has a survey option on the receipt. I filled out the survey and mentioned our regular server — Christine — how she interacts, remembers our preferences, etc. And then I forgot about filling it out
Until Saturday morning. I was attending the monthly breakfast, bringing my first plate back to the table, when Christine, our server, asked if I had filled out a survey, and mentioned her by name. It took me a moment to think and said, “yes, I did.” she said she thought it was me, and thanked me. “We earn points at corporate when someone mentions us by name.” Corporate lets them know about any comments that mention them.
I pondered all the way back to the table how she knew it was I that had written the response. What I had written was sincere and accurate, but what had I said that had revealed it as me? More on that later.
When I got back to the table I mentioned my exchange with Christine to the other men. Each of them had their own appreciation and interaction with her, but like me they were unaware of the impact of filling out one of the surveys to the waitstaff. We often don’t realize the impact our simple actions can have.
It was at this point I shared from my conversations earlier this month with my professors at Gonzaga. While visiting the campus for my immersion course, I had absorbed some comments from my professors about the Jesuit philosophy. The current wording of this was “Men and women for others.”
Dr. Hazel in particular talked about how this applied to our interactions with the people that are usually invisible or ignored, custodial staff, security, etc. He shared anecdotes about how the staff interviewed people for new positions. The most important person for making the decision might play the least interactive. Then they would observe the candidate to see if he noticed everyone, or just focused on the people who asked the most questions, seemed the most important. The ones who ignored the quiet ones would have their faces drop at the end when the “important” person was finally revealed at the end. But it all reinforced the creed of “men and women for others.” All others.
This brought out another story. A member of the group had found Bernie working at a Ryan’s restaurant down south in the metro are, and reconnected to find her doing well there.
Flash forward to my trip for the second plate of food on Saturday. I am watching the man/artist who is making my omelet, when I suddenly remember what I wrote that identified me to Christine. I mentioned how we came as our church group monthly, and how she remembered each of us from month to month, and brought us our regular — including my tea. I am the only one who regularly comes who gets tea. Bingo, I identified myself. But that also proved what I wrote was correct. She did know us, and remember us, as we knew and remembered her.
Now, I feel slightly self-conscious writing this post. I’m not saying how great I am to remember and recognize people like Christine. Every time someone like Christine mentions her appreciation for my appreciation, I feel good about it, but I also think, who have I been blind to recently? who have I missed?
One of my life mantras has been about this, about thankfulness. I have been teaching Nathan that people expect to be thanked for the ordinary things that they do for others, but that we don’t think to be thankful to others for the ordinary things they do for us — because they are the ordinary, and expected. So if we practice a life of thankfulness, to others, for the ordinary, we can have an extraordinary impact on them.
And that sort of impact is what the men’s group, the men’s breakfast, from Cornerstone, has been having, just by being themselves, and expressing that interest and love of Christ that each of us has to those around us at the monthly breakfasts, and elsewhere that we go. It is good to be a part of that, and to encourage each other in such well-doing.
Thus I conclude this meditation on Thankfulness: a simple yet profound thing that should be practiced more than once a year. To be thankful to God, and to be thankful to others.