Does Your Light Shine or Glare?

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Does Your Light Shine or Glare?

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The world is watching us. How we Christians act when out in public, be it at a restaurant or other public place, reflects on us, our church and Jesus Christ.

At the restaurant where I work as a host, we see many different types of people: families with small children, young couples, teens, people with rough clothes and covered with tattoos, bikers and "church people."

The servers have to deal with rowdy children, noisy parties, people upset at having to wait for a table and so on. The servers become used to and adept at dealing with these, but there is one group that they really don't like to see come in the restaurant.

But first, let's meet the servers.

The servers

Servers are people who have to do this labor for a living or for college money or for other things. They really need to work. Some are single mothers or abused women. Some are young people whose parents have put them out or demanded they get a job. Some are immigrants who are struggling to support a family here and possibly also back in their home country. They are paid an unlivable wage, about $2 to $2.50 an hour, and often work 12 to 14 hours a day. Their real income is from tips. It is physically hard work, and there can be real stress dealing with the public.

Back to the one group the servers really don't like to see come in. In our restaurant, this group is the "church people."

"Church people"

Twice a week there are groups coming in: on Bible study (or sewing circle or men's meeting, etc.) night and on Sunday. These are the very people you would expect would be the easiest and best to have as customers. They are "Christian"--taught to have love for their neighbor, be kind and outgoing and be an example of their way of life.

Yes, one would expect that, and probably the majority are. But the quiet, proper and gentle ones are not noticed because of the others who are such glaring examples. They are the ones who are rude to the servers, treat them more as slaves than equals, are demanding, short tempered and inconsiderate.

Think this is an exaggeration? It is not. They come in groups of eight or more (where the tables are for four or two) on Sunday, which is the busiest day of the week. Then they get upset because they have to wait 30 to 45 minutes for enough adjoining tables to vacate so they can be pushed together to accommodate them. Then when they are seated, they take it out on the server. Often they leave very little or no tip for the server whose living depends on tips. With checks of over $100, the tip is often just $2 to $5.

At night they will come in 15 minutes before closing and then sit after finishing their meal and visit until 45 minutes or an hour after closing. This leaves the staff standing around, unable to leave because of them. On Sunday this visiting ties up a group of tables while other people are waiting to be seated. The servers can make no money while their tables are not moving.

I have heard servers say, "If this is being a Christian" or "If this is what going to church does, then I don't want any part of it." Sounds extreme, but it is common in our restaurant every week. Most churchgoing people do not fall into this category, but sadly those who do stand out. Jesus instructed us to let our light shine. Our light is to be a comforting, warm glow that attracts and guides. As a "city set on a hill," the lights of which are a welcome beacon to a weary traveler, we should be a welcome guest in any public place. By being sensitive to the servers' needs, being kind, cooperative and appreciative, we can avoid the glaring errors and be shining examples instead.

The bikers

Do you wonder who the customers are that the servers most like to welcome? Prepare for a shock. They are the bikers. Yes, when the 20 or 30 motorcyclists--with their leathers, tattoos, hair and so on--pull up in the parking lot, they are most welcome. They are kind, patient and generous. They are quiet and well behaved. And they tip well. This is the light servers respond to.

When we are out in public, will our light be a welcome, warm, inviting glow--a shining example that makes people want us to return? Or will it be a blinding glare that causes people to turn away to escape it? Will they say of us, "If this is being Christian, I want no part of it"?

Which kind of "church people" will we be?