Recently my wife and I were at a fast-food restaurant. The service was not fast. As I impatiently waited at the counter, a young man who works at the establishment stepped away and began blathering on with one of the cooks in the kitchen. Their conversation seemed to have nothing to do with burgers or fries or serving the increasingly annoyed old man waiting to give his order.
When this effeminate young man finally presented himself at the counter, I noticed his unkempt appearance and his greasy hair with bleached streaks. He also had some piercings and at least three visible tattoos. His burger shirt was wrinkled and messy. As I stood there silently judging him, I could barely hold my composure. Why should I have been kept waiting while he appeared to be flirting with the guy in the back?
I girded my loins for a confrontation because I was certain that he would challenge my order of two Kid Meals (because I really don’t look like I’m 12 or younger) but instead he politely accepted my request with a smile and a “thank you”. I was a bit deflated because all my imaginary rage was wasted. Happy for the discounted meals but disappointed that I hadn’t been right about this kid left me flummoxed. Just because two senior citizens are purchasing Kids Meals doesn’t mean we’re stealing; it just means we’re living on a fixed income and being financially responsible. Maybe my ever-so-slight dishonesty comes with the price of having to be waited on by this guy. Whatever the rationale, I enjoyed my burger and fries and my tiny child-size soft drink.
Then Counter Guy approached the table next to us where a young woman with Down Syndrome was struggling with getting the lid and straw secured on her soft drink. I recognized her as the person who wipes the tables and mops the floors there and her shift had apparently just ended. She often seems to be neglected and dismissed by the other staff members. But this guy helped her with her drink and inquired about her ride home. He then asked her what kind of car her mom drove, and when he spotted the car in the parking lot, he walked her out to the car and took the time to speak with her mother. He afforded her such care and compassion.
Now my meal was served with a slice of humble pie. God forgive me!
I had been so quick to judge, and I was so wrong. Because of his appearance and manner, I had pre-judged Counter Guy. With more than a little trepidation, I returned to the counter and told that young man that I had witnessed his kindness. I let him know how touching it was and thanked him for reminding me to be kinder. I might have embarrassed him, but he smiled and said, “I just like to be nice to people, and treat them with dignity and respect”.
Dignity. Respect. It’s never too late to learn.
Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Matthew 7:1-2