Wednesday, June 17, 2015

More Important

When I was in high school, I spent the better part of my senior year bussing tables at a small Italian restaurant. It was the kind of place that had a fancy menu and a pricey wine list. It had two dining rooms; one was a bit more on the elegant side with trellises and carpeting and a "faux al-fresco" platform while the other had red tablecloths and a black & white checkered linoleum floor. My uniform was a dressy white shirt and black dressy bottoms - either a skirt or pants - and dressy but comfortable black shoes.

For those that don't know what a busperson does - I was the person who brought you bread & water at the beginning of the meal, made sure you always had water, helped the server bring plates to the table if needed, and cleared away your empty (or mostly empty) plates. I pulled trash and carried tubs of disgusting dishes to the back to be washed. Because I did a lot of work to keep the service going, the servers "had" to give me a percentage of their tips at the end of the night.

Being a nicer restaurant, we would get a lot of couples out on dates or families having celebrations or business people bringing a client out for a nice dinner. But once in a while a reservation would happen that would put the restaurant staff on high alert.

The Antons were coming. (Yes, of Anton's Cleaners for those that live in the Merrimack Valley, Massachusetts area - those Antons.)

Every martini glass had to be washed and the buspeople would be advised to make sure to stay on top of seeing they got washed as they got used. Extra bread would be baked and extra calamari brought in for that night. The "who can work late" question would be asked and those people would be assigned to that table. And by "table" I mean 4 tables put together to accommodate a party of at LEAST 10 people who would eat, drink, and be merry from about 7:00 PM until close to midnight. Mr. Anton would usually sit somewhere in the middle of the table where he could interact with everyone, and whenever he would bring his people in it was always a good night to be working.

This picture was taken by us at a fundraiser at a local restaurant.
Funds went towards relief efforts for the Haiti earthquake.

"Who is more important: the one who sits at the table or the one who serves?" This is the question that Jesus asks His disciples at the Last Supper (Luke 22:27).

"Who is more important...?" That night as far as the proprietors of that small Italian restaurant were concerned - the Antons were the most important people, and Mr. Anton was the most important of the important people.

And when Jesus asks the questions, He immediate answers: "The one who sits at the table, of course."

"Of course."

When the Antons came, we were to find the utmost of our abilities and perform there. Be as attentive, as kind, as anticipatory of needs as we had ever been in our lives. We worked like our paychecks - at least for that evening - depended on it. Because Mr. Anton and his party were the most important people, we made sure to treat them as such.


There's always a "but" with Jesus, isn't there?

Jesus sat there at the table at The Last Supper, certainly by all measures the most important person in the room. Son of God, the Messiah who would go on to die for our sins, worshiped over the ages by millions. After asking the question of his disciples as to who was more important, saying that "of course" it is the one who sits at the table - Jesus sticks his "but" into the conversation.

"But not here! For I am among you as the one who serves." 

Jesus was, by every measure, the most important person at that table. He is the Son of God. He would go on to sacrifice His earthly life and take the punishment for all of our sins.

I've really got to get a copy of "The Brick Testament" for the kids...
He sat at the table, yet He placed himself in the status of one who served.

Something to ponder: If Jesus is saying that at the table of His last earthly meal that He is NOT the most important person, that He is the one who serves - what does that say about us each time we take communion? Before discussing who is the most or least important, Jesus tells his disciples to take the bread and drink the wine in remembrance of Him. We continue to take the bread and drink of the cup over 2000 years later in His honor.

He went on to serve us in the biggest of ways. He gave His life for us. He went to the tomb and rose on the third day and walked among us before ascending to Heaven to sit beside the Father.

He restored the most broken of relationships - that between Man & God.

The most gracious, most sizable, most beautiful act of service in history.

There was one night that I was able to get a later ride home when Mr. Anton brought his crew in and was therefore able to be part of the service staff that worked his table. I spent the better part of 4 hours running empty martini glasses back and forth from the kitchen, pouring pitchers of water into glasses, clearing plates, bringing clean silverware, helping the waitstaff get meals to the table in a timely fashion so they could all eat together, and just generally making sure this very important party was well taken care of. It was a whirlwind night.

As the meal was coming to a close, I felt someone gently grab my arm. I turned and saw Mr. Anton's hand as the culprit and asked how I could help him.

"Young lady," he said, "you have been working hard all night. I know you tip share, but here - I want to make sure I give you something too." With those words, this older gentleman quietly slipped a $20 bill into my hand, closed it, and patted the top. "Thank you for a great night, young lady."

I smiled, I thanked him, and I topped off his water glass. Buspeople didn't get $20 direct-from-the-customer tips. $20 is what I would get in tipsharing from one server on a busy Friday night.

Arthur Anton at an event recognizing his service to the community - 2013.
Photo credit: Meghan Moore, Megpix
I have never forgotten that act of kindness. That small, quiet act of kindness by a successful businessman is one that I have kept in my heart for almost 20 years now. I have always viewed it as
an example of staying humble, of remembering to serve each other, of recognizing the hard work that people do.

A reminder that no matter how important we become, that we should still serve. We should still love, We should still be humble.

Jesus sat at His last meal and reminded us that He walked the earth to serve.

We need to remember His example. We need to do the same.

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