Marta hurriedly cleaned cluttered tables in preparation for breakfasters, her eyes scanning the floor for runaway silverware or pieces of food. Even though the winter day was sunny, it seemed unusually dark in the Christian restaurant, Harvest Lounge Diner. Noticing three light bulbs had burned out above her in the Christmas-adorned swag lamp, she rushed to the storeroom for new ones.
Marilyn, the new waitress, was conversing with a family at Table 6. Having finished their meals, they were asking directions to the nearest shopping mall.
Rolling her eyes disapprovingly, Marta passed by with a whispered admonishment, “Marilyn, dear, it’s almost 8:00 and our regulars are due to arrive any minute. Tell them they can get a map from the gas station across the street.”
Marta fumed as the hostess led a new group of businessmen to their largest vacant booth.
“Now, I’ll have to stop decorating to wait on them, and it’s HER section! If only Marilyn was more efficient . . . Good morning, gentlemen! What can I get for you today?”
Crisply delivering their orders to the kitchen cook, Marta kept an eye on her patrons while she placed Christmas angels and doves on the remaining empty tables. The moment the cook was placing the delectably filled platters under the heat-lamped counter, Marta was back to briskly serve the meals.
Marilyn’s soft laughter floated in the air behind her above the customers’ conversations. Turning around, Marta gaped disbelievingly. Marilyn, instead of retrieving her present table’s meals, was actually making comic faces at the little children, assisting their parents with bibs and coloring placemats and crayons. She even had given one child Marta’s meticulously hand-painted angel to play with!
The day progressed with similar incidents, Marta continuing to competently handle all the tiresome details of restaurant management while, it seemed to her, Marilyn was flitting the hours away entertaining their guests. At closing time, exhausted Marta continued to hang more Christmas décor at precisely measured angles. She saw that Marilyn, instead of assisting her, was earnestly conversing with the cook, who was tearfully unloading her problems. Marilyn was holding the older lady’s hands, praying with her.
A week later, Marta snapped. Marilyn seemed oblivious to her hints. It was time to discuss this serious problem with Mrs. Gee, the café’s owner, her boss.
“This new waitress is NOT working out. She is highly unproductive and disruptive to this establishment. I’ve had to increase my workload to compensate for her, and although I am capable, it’s exasperating to be doing all the work while she is woefully short in contributing to our success here.”
“What is your definition of success, Marta?”
“To service our patrons so well that they return and tell others about us so that you can increase profits.”
“And what of ministry, child? Do you think we run a Christian eatery for just material gain?” Holding up a sheaf of receipts, Mrs. Gee continued. “I’ve watched you and Marilyn closely since she has joined our staff and noticed the friction present, which, I might add, comes from you—not her. We have actually had a full house consistently in spite of a weakened economy, elevating our profits significantly from last year’s Christmas season.”
“Well, uh, that’s great! I’ve worked diligently to make that happen,” Marta explained proudly.
“So has Marilyn. You have different temperaments, Marta. Both are necessary and appreciated. But, since you have brought it up, I would like to suggest to you that Marilyn has given the most valuable service to this establishment.”
Speechless for a change, Marta pondered the admonishment.
“Further, I think you and Marilyn could learn from each other and work as a team. People like to interact with those who serve them, as I have observed repeatedly since Marilyn’s service here.”
“But, but, I DO serve. I . . .”
“Excuse me, Marta. Getting things done—if that’s what matters most to you, then what is Christmas all about? Do the people you ‘serve’ feel valued or respected? Do you really see them as individuals with needs besides the food and listen to them? That’s what God taught us is the most important: loving people as He did and does. Christ’s birth that we celebrate at this time teaches us the same thing. He was born to serve by building relationships with people.”
The words stung. Marta returned home that evening, convicted to make changes in her behavior. Which began with an apology to Marilyn.
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