Waitressing: Preparation for my Christian walk

By Jessica Brodie

I was a server in a restaurant all through college, and it was fantastic. While I was blessed to have a college scholarship, it only covered tuition and books. The tips I earned gave me a place to live, a lesson on how to get along with others… and, I’ve come to realize, a great foundation for my life as a Christian servant.

See, if you want to make any money in the restaurant business, you learn pretty quickly that it’s all about the customer. A server needs to push herself (or himself) aside and focus on the table she serves, how she can make her customers feel at ease, how she can help them decide what to eat or understand what side might pair best with what entrée. She has to keep an eye out always, anticipate when her customer might like another diet soda or loaf of bread. She needs to watch out for when their order might be ready or if their food is taking too long, and intervene on their behalf with the chef if needed.

When it is ready, she needs to quickly, safely, and efficiently swoop in, grab their hot plates, and deliver them to the table—all without spilling a single sautéed mushroom. Then she needs to hover nearby, making sure everything is cooked to their liking, making sure they don’t need steak sauce or ketchup or yet another refill on their drinks.

And she needs to do it all with a smile on her face, joyfully serving to the best of her ability, doing all she can to ensure her customer is happy. After all, happy customers typically mean larger tips, and then everyone is satisfied.

But the thing is, “Would you like fries with that?” isn’t so far from “May I pray with you?” As Christians, we are called to a life of servitude and humility. Jesus modeled that when He washed his disciples’ feet at The Last Supper, noting, “‘I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do’” (John 13:15 CEB).

He also told his disciples James and John that “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NIV).

We’re not on this earth to please ourselves. God created us to be in perfect relationship with Him, to love our Creator with all our hearts, minds, and souls and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:35-40). That means putting their needs above our own.

I’ve long said restaurant work should be required for every young adult. It teaches respect, humility, selflessness, the value of hard work, finances, and time management, and the skills I learned have carried me well in my career as a professional writer, journalist, and nonprofit administrator.

But now, as I jump into service in any church, ministry, or other avenue today, that restaurant training comes back like I did it yesterday: The smile. The welcoming spirit. The quick offer of some basic need (a cup of coffee, a place to sit, a shoulder to cry on, a friend to pray with).

As Christians, we are called to serve. And I’m grateful I had a little training back in my college days.

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