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My parents were in town recently to help celebrate my eldest’s 18th birthday. So, on a Saturday night, we went out for a special birthday dinner. We’re new to the area, so we really didn’t know where the place to go was. We decided to try someplace we hadn’t and hope for the best. The birthday boy chose Italian food for a direction to go in choosing, and we chose a place that looked like a hole in the wall, but sounded terrific online. It had a lot of great reviews and homemade gelato. What could possibly go wrong?

We had been busy most of the day and were starting to get hungry around 6p-ish. Some of us weren’t that hungry, but we thought we’d head out early anyway since it was a Saturday night. We arrived at the restaurant around 6:30p, in time to put a couple of tables together to accommodate our party of nine (a cousin who lives in the area joined us for the day’s festivities). There weren’t many people in the place, but that could be because it’s not a very big space. At all. There were a couple of empty tables, but other than that, it was packed. Again, it’s not a very big place.

The waitress comes to take our drink orders and explains how she’s new and just starting to get the feel for things, so she asked for a little grace (my word, not hers). No problem. Though small, and a little tight, everything looks promising. We order waters and peruse the menu. Everything here is made from scratch. Everything. Even the ranch and marinara sauces. There’s a big wood-burning brick oven in the wall behind the counter, so a brick-oven pizza or calzone sounds really good. After some time, our waitress returns with our waters and takes our food orders. Pizzas, calzones, and pastas abound. Several salads are ordered, too. We’re ready for a nice, Italian dinner.

Several minutes and a few empty water glasses later, the waitress returns to make sure she got the orders correct. Again, she’s new, so grace is extended. A few minutes later, she returns to refill our glasses. We’re not sure how much time has elapsed, but we know it’s been a while. Our conversation is good, and spirits are still high. A few more people come in and are seated, and though the tables seemed full, it never felt overly crowded.

After a few more empty glasses, our waitress returns to apologize for the wait, apologize for being new, and asks if she can get us anything. Everyone thinks, “Our food would be nice,” but nobody voices that aloud. Apparently, our waitress has also been manning the phone, and we’re informed that there are several to-go orders being placed. The way she’s letting us know this gives the impression that the to-go orders have been placed ahead of ours. This is a little disconcerting, but we’re still doing okay. Those of us who weren’t hungry when we left the camper, are surely hungry now, so it’s working out.

Another empty glass or two, and a new lady brings out the first salad. A few minutes later, she returns with a second salad. A few minutes later, she returns with a third salad. After several minutes, those who ordered salads finally have them. Those who didn’t order salads are ruing the fact. A few minutes later, our original waitress starts to bring the bread sticks. Please remember, everything here is made from scratch. We realized the reason for the singular procession of the salads was that she was chopping all the ingredients right then after having made the dressings. These were fresh salads. The bread sticks were fresh and warm (right out of that brick oven). Our countenances were lifting again.

Finally, after who can remember how long, the first round of entrees are brought out: two calzones and a pizza. The non-fooded portion of the party encourages (needlessly) those with their food to not wait to start eating. No worries there. After several minutes, another round of food is brought to the table. This rounds looks suspiciously like the first round. Lo, and behold, they cooked the same three orders again. Apologies and free food. It’s okay. We’re not in a big hurry. We’re not going to get upset over something which we have no control. Keep cookin’ and bringin’ it out. We’ll be fine; we’re not dying of starvation here.

After some considerable time, though things seemed to be speeding along now, everyone had their correctly ordered meal. We’re now eating. We’ve been laughing. We’ve been sharing this time together. We’ve been easy on the new waitress. The food is really good. It’s really, really good. We’re all very pleased with our meals. The quality of the food is top-notch, and we’re looking forward to eating some of the extra food for lunch the next day. So, what’s for dessert? Well, they don’t have their gelato. Bummer. But no big deal; we’ll just go and get a cake from the grocery store bakery and take it home.

After some time (natch), our waitress brings us our check. Grandma looks it over and says, “I don’t think you have everything on here.” The waitress says that they have not forgotten anything, but that they are again sorry for the wait and the mix up. They wanted to make it up to us in this way. What should have been $90 plus easily (which really isn’t bad for nine people), was only $61. Nine people stuffed and with extra food for the next day for only $61. Not a bad deal.

Two hours after arriving at the restaurant, we emerge with full bellies and fun stories. The waitress follows us outside to apologize again and thank us for being so nice. She’s almost in tears. We explain how we appreciated her openness and efforts and that there was really no reason to be mean or ugly about anything. Getting upset wouldn’t have changed our circumstances. She explained how their whole system is relatively new and how they know they have things to work out. No problem. The food was delicious. We’d go give them another try another time. We left, got the cake, went back to the camper, and enjoyed our evening celebrating our oldest kiddo.

You can choose. You can choose to be mean and ugly and add stress to a situation by really not helping at all, or you can choose to accept the situation and be a light in a dark place. Attitude means a lot. When we live by a different life, Christ’s life, a life of love and grace, then that will bear fruit in how we interact with other people. Please understand me, we don’t always choose the Lord’s life; sometimes our own life (flesh, soul-life) rears its ugly head, and we demand our own rights and privileges. That typically gets us nowhere fast. And while being nice and forgiving didn’t speed things along at the restaurant, it created a different (and more pleasant) atmosphere in which to operate. We gave them the freedom to mess up and make it right. God gives us that freedom all the time. And He still loves us. So, the next time you’re someplace and things don’t seem to be going the way they should, remember: You can choose.

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