“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Matthew 25:40 NIV
Yesterday my daughter, my sister, and I attempted to go to dinner at an Olive Garden restaurant here in town. Not a regular occurrence, but that’s only because we don’t always have a taste for Italian food. I was immediately uncomfortable in the restaurant because we were seated at a booth that was obviously designed for people who weren’t there to eat. The table only allowed for a little bit of room on either side and I am a short, chubby gal, (hence the impetus for the decision to visit the Olive Garden) so sitting in this space was quite uncomfortable. And there seemed to be no alternative seating available.
As the waitress approached us we were in the midst of sorting out whether or not the seat would work for us and so we weren’t quite ready to deal with the menu at that point. She gave us a few more minutes to look it over. When she returned to our table and took our drink order we told her we would need a few more minutes to look at the menu. As we were looking, we found that the items we liked had been removed from the menu so we decided that we had made a huge mistake in our restaurant choice. When she came back with our drinks, we told her that we had decided to just order some breadsticks and finish our drinks. We did this so that we could leave her a big tip for her trouble since we had taken up her time. It should not have been a problem; however, the girl must have had the wrong idea about what we were doing. Because she came back to the table with a basket that held three breadsticks and she apologetically told us that this was all she was allowed to do. I’m guessing she misunderstood that we had actually wanted to order and pay for a full order of breadsticks which would be our meal there because we couldn’t find anything on the menu that we wanted.
At first I wasn’t offended by her actions. But then it dawned on me that the reason why she had come back with the three breadsticks was that she had taken one look at us in our jeans and hoodies and decided that we could not afford to eat there. She evidently thought we were trying to scam her out of some drinks and breadsticks. Now, this waitress did not know me personally. And I don’t know for certain her motivation for making this snap judgment. I only know that I don’t generally dress up, especially when I am just hanging around my hometown. I tend to dress comfortably because my body generally hurts all over on any given day and I don’t like to feel confined or uncomfortable just so someone else will like the way I look. Maybe she thought I looked like a bum. But should she have made that determination just because I wasn’t dressed in designer clothing and all decked out in my Sunday best? The answer to that question is “No!” It was Thursday, after all.
Somewhere in your travels, you may have heard the story of the homeless man who visited a church service at an old country church. He sat in the back waiting to be acknowledged by the congregation, but no acknowledgment came. The gist of the story is that the man was dressed in shabby clothing and he didn’t look like anybody special. So the members of the congregation didn’t pay him much attention and in fact, some of them stayed away from him because of his appearance. At the end of the story we learn that the man was actually very wealthy and didn’t want anyone to know how important he was. But the congregation was so focused on appearances and what they thought a good Christian should look like that they didn’t give this man the support and the welcome that anyone who attends a church deserves. I think we’ve all been guilty of this at least a time or two in our lives, at least to some degree. We see someone on the street and we aren’t sure if they’re dangerous or not and so we might step to the other side or try to avoid them without being too obvious. In some cases, it is justified. Things are certainly not as predictable today as they might have been once upon a time. Our society has gotten more and more violent and it isn’t always prudent to be so trusting that we welcome everyone indiscriminately. After all, if you give me the choice between surviving an encounter by being a little selective or opening myself up to injury or possible death, I’m probably gonna choose to be selective 99% of the time. But in a situation like visiting a restaurant, there should be some indication or at least something in your spirit or common sense that tells you that most people are coming in for a meal and that they intend to pay for what they order. Granted there are people out there who take advantage, but treating customers like criminals will generally get you nowhere. And it certainly has an effect on your tip.
I did end up talking to the manager and letting them know that their seating was uncomfortable for larger people and that, in spite of the fact that the girl seemed nice, her actions had been very off-putting and insulting to us. I didn’t want anything from this manager, I just wanted her to know how this interaction made us feel and why we were leaving so abruptly. This waitress didn’t have the privilege of knowing that in my background I have experienced extreme poverty, even to the point of homelessness and that for me, there is a great deal of shame attached to the lack of money or implication thereof. She had no way of knowing that I have struggled with this issue my entire life and that poverty is a sore point with me. So, to be treated like someone who didn’t have the means to be in the restaurant was, in fact, a trigger. It wasn’t her fault that I felt this way, but it was her fault that her interaction with us was based on faulty perceptions. It shouldn’t matter what someone is wearing. It shouldn’t matter if they have the latest hairstyle or if they just have that “rich” look about them. Some people don’t like to spend the money that they have on things that don’t matter to them. In my case, I tend to spend the minimum on my outward appearance, because I don’t feel that that is the most important part of me. In my naivete, I generally think that most people will just accept me as I am. If I had a nickel for every time I had been proven wrong on that score, I’d be so rich that I probably wouldn’t have had to write this post.
For people who have experienced extreme poverty (and I have known many), I find that we generally go one of two ways when we are finally able to dig ourselves out of it. We either spend our money on making a show of who we are now that we can afford to fit in a bit better or we hoard our money to maintain a sense of security in having enough funds put back for a rainy day. I haven’t seen much of an in-between. Poverty takes a real toll on people and many of us carry lifelong emotional scars from having had to live in survival mode, even if it was just for a short time. Understanding that a person’s value doesn’t come from the clothes they wear or even the amount of money they have in their pocket is something that we all need to learn and live out. Or we can just be content to judge each book solely by its cover and feel justified in doing so. We really don’t have to care that we’ve hurt feelings or slighted someone with our prejudices. That’s not a requirement to get through the day. But God expects better of each and every one of us. What you do to the least of these matters to Him. And that should matter to you.
Rebecca Benston is the owner of Higher Ground Books & Media and the author of over twenty titles currently available through Amazon and other outlets. Her books include a mystery series (The Rona Shively Stories), empowerment resources such as Wise Up to Rise Up, Don’t Be Stupid (And I Mean That in the Nicest Way), and From Judgment to Jubilee, children’s books including Grumble D. Grumble Learns to Smile, All the Scary Things, and See How Strong You Are. Benston lives in Springfield, Ohio with her awesome daughter, Mya and enjoys traveling, reading, writing, and telling it like it is. She enjoys being able to help other authors get their stories out there through Higher Ground and has recently expanded her freelance services to offer more extensive guidance as a writing coach and social media manager. For more information, you can contact Benston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you know that I also write children’s books? Grumble D. Grumble Learns to Smile is one of my favorite. It’s the story of a grumpy bear who learns a valuable life lesson from a very tiny little creature.
You can get your copy in the HGBM Shop or on Amazon!
answers beliefs compassion faith family fear healing people poverty relationships society thinking values weight loss classism discomfort discrimination empowerment God motivation poverty relationships ridiculousness snubbery society weight
My name is Rebecca Benston. I’m a Christian. I’m a woman. I’m a mother. I’m a writer. I’m a thinker. When I write fiction, I am usually writing a mystery series called The Rona Shively Stories. My P.I. character, Rona Shively is feisty, fearless and fabulous and is usually caught up in something she doesn’t want to be caught up in. In addition to this series, I also have a blog called Higher Ground for Life. Through this blog, I’m hoping to reach women or anyone who is seeking to develop a relationship with God and give them inspiration to get out there and follow His path for their lives!
I also have a blog called Leading the Follower. This one is my favorite. I write about religion, faith, spirituality and all that goes along with it. What we believe, what we don’t believe, what we are told to believe and how society feels about believing in general. I do a lot of testifying here and some of what I say may make you angry. Most of it will make you think. Some of it will make you cry. Any of it could make you laugh. It’s really up to you.
If you are looking for practical advice, honest conversation, and no nonsense observations about living in today’s world, check out my blogs at http://highergroundbooksandmedia.com and http://www.ronashively.wordpress.com and http://www.highergroundforlife.wordpress.com and http://www.leadingthefollower.wordpress.com. And if you’re so inclined, you can purchase my books and some other great, inspirational works from Higher Ground Books & Media at http://highergroundbooksandmedia.com.