I've got a tip for you...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jobs in Worland, Wyoming were scarce in 1975.

But, since we had (deservedly) been exiled to that small town in north central Wyoming, jobs were what we needed.

We found lodging at the Cook Hotel, long gone now, for the princely sum of $17.85 per week. It was a simple bedroom, with a shared bath down the hall. I made Danny stand guard whenever I was in the tub. The television was in the lobby and the walls were paper-thin. But it was shelter from the storm and we were grateful.

Always ready to do whatever it took to keep food in our bellies, Danny found spot-work while he hustled for a permanent position and I went to my fallback position of waiting tables.

Not yet noticeably pregnant, I nevertheless knew that whatever career path I chose in the spring of 1975, my tenure would be brief, so I was thankful when the Washakie Hotel, whose rooms went for quite a bit more than $17 per week, hired me to work in their restaurant. Since beggars can't be choosers, my shift was all over the place. Sometimes I had the breakfast rush and sometimes the noon rush, often a combination of the two. The Greyhound bus stopped at the hotel each day near the noon hour, so we were always assured of a noon rush as passengers quickly perused the menu, time at a premium if they were to continue on their journey.

My mom was a fantastic waitress. I quickly discovered that her unique skill-set is not genetic and although I always earned enough in tips for supper that night, I seldom had what anyone would call a stellar day. As anyone who has waited tables can attest, some tips stand out in memory. I remember one fellow leaving me a $5 tip for a piece of pie and a cup of coffee. I can only surmise that his mom was a waitress at some point in her life. Other tippers live on in memory simply because of their tight-fistedness.

Sadly, the tippers who made the top ten of how NOT to tip were the church folk. The Sunday after-church rush was the least favorable shift of all. Always ready to share the Gospel, they came armed with myriad tracts, each detailing Father God's plan of salvation or their particular denomination's stand on this or that interpretation of this or that Scripture. What they didn't seem to understand was that their waitress wasn't spending her Sunday afternoon waiting tables for the fun of it; because it beat sitting in a comfortable pew; or as an act of rebellion against being seated in a comfortable pew. Speaking for myself, my motivation was money and how to make enough of it to keep body and soul together for another day.

We fell into a discussion about tipping at the office the other day and the consensus was plain. If you can't afford to tip appropriately, you can't afford to go out for dinner.

Danny and I do not eat out often these days, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the expense. It seems to be a significant expenditure for very little return. However, we have never failed to leave a tip, seldom bothering with percentage calculations. It is the one area in my life where I can truly say I am generous. Although I don't reward bad service with an extravagant tip, I never stiff the wait staff.

Tipping is only one of myriad arenas where the children of the Lord should excel, putting the world and its priorities to shame.

A recent op-ed by Raymond Johnson appeared in the online edition of the Baptist Press. Johnson waits tables to help support himself and his family while he attends graduate school. Apparently, the same problem that I faced in 1975 remains an issue with the faithful in 2012.

Johnson, pursuing a PhD in New Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary writes, "... Scripture teaches that Christians, more than all people, should be characterized by generosity and love..." but believers instead "... are living inconsistently with the Gospel they preach."

Sadly, even apart from tipping, this is all too often the case. Self-proclaimed believers are found with their thumb on the scales. Others, who take great pride in the churches they've built, withhold the wages of those who helped make the money they spent on polished pews and stained-glass windows. And far too many destroy their positive witness with careless remarks of judgement and condemnation, all too often overheard by the ones who need to hear grace-filled conversations, not thinly-disguised lectures on how they are "reaping as they have sown."

I don't believe Johnson's frustration stems from an unspoken resentment toward stingy Christians because he relies on their generosity to pay his light bill. Rather, his frustration, and mine, is rooted in the damage done to the name and the cause of Christ, when those who call themselves by his name treat "the least of these" as if they really are "lesser" ones than they.

"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. " Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)

I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.


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