Monday, August 8, 2016

Lessons from Fast Food

Several years ago my friend told a story. He is a gentle-giant type of person, sensitive; the sort that puts others first, is patient, kind, and empathetic. His story surprised me.

He lived in Chicago and worked in retail at a busy mall. He had a short lunch break. One afternoon he raced to a fast food restaurant to buy a quick lunch. He waited in a long line during the afternoon rush, finally reached the counter and placed his order. He paid his money, grabbed his food and headed back to his job. As he looked in the bag he realized they forgot his fries. He really wanted the fries so he went back to the counter. The cashier motioned to him to go back to the end of the line. He obeyed and waited in line, again. His lunch minutes ticked away.

When he reached the front of the line, he politely let the cashier know they forgot his fries. The cashier did not believe him. There was no proof. Even though my friend had his receipt, the cashier reasoned that my friend could have eaten the fries while he was waiting in line. My friend restated that he purchased fries and did not receive them. The cashier called the manager. The manager was jaded and maybe a little rude. He thought my friend was trying to pull a fast one. He accusatorily agreed with the cashier, no proof = no fries.

          My gentle friend grew angry. Perhaps it was because of his experience in retail and belief in offering kind customer service. Perhaps it was being on the receiving end of a false accusation. Perhaps he’d just had enough. So, he took one step back from the counter and drew in a deep breath. Surrounded by the busy lunch time crowd, he yelled as loud as he could: “Give me my fries!” They gave him his fries.
          I’ve since lost touch with my friend, but that phrase has stuck with me all these years. Whenever I face a false accusation, or get the brunt of someone’s anger, or encounter unprovoked rudeness, that phrase pops into my head. And I silently scream out to the masses of humanity: “Give me my fries!”
          It happened just this week. After mumbling “give me my fries!” under my breath for several days afterward, I finally decided to take it to God. I was reading the New Testament book of Peter during my quiet time. Peter was a hothead (and also one of Jesus’ disciples), so I was hoping to be vindicated. Instead I read this, “Be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:13–16)
          And then I read this, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind” (v. 2:1). And finally this, “live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (vv. 3:8–9).
          Why? Why should we seek to be holy (living life as vessels of God’s love) or humble, or try to repay evil with compassion? Because that is when God’s light shines. That is when the warmth of God’s love permeates our cold and calloused world. Does God want us to be the world’s punching bag? No, but he does want us to be his hands and feet, caring for others when they have lost their compassion, showing his love when they feel and act unlovable, and showing his mercy when it is undeserved. Isn’t that what God has given, at great sacrifice, to us? I won’t pretend that it is easy, it isn’t. But in the end, don’t love and mercy taste much sweeter than fast-food fries?

“Above all, love each other deeply,
because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
(1 Peter 4:8)

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