Matthew 6:25-33

“Don’t worry about tomorrow.” That is, unless your day tomorrow is going to be defined by the day after it. I learned to dislike the day after Thanksgiving when I was waiting tables. Our restaurant was just down the block from the shopping mall, and any time the mall was busy, we were busy. That meant that we went absolutely full-tilt from Black Friday through Christmas, and usually for several days after that. Nobody got the day off on the day after Thanksgiving, and by the time we opened for lunch at 11:00, people were waiting outside who had been shopping for hours already. It’s a challenging, grueling day to sling pasta and breadsticks.

Of course, we made serious bank that day. For some, that’s what it was all about. I learned early on that there was a noticeable difference between servers who worked to please their guests and those whose mind was always on the tip coming at the end of the meal. The difference may not be quite visible to the guest, as long as the work is done well, but as a coworker and a human being, I could see the toll the money takes. Not only is this a strenuous, demanding, under-appreciated job, but your pay is arbitrarily set for you by a collection of people whose investment in your life ends as soon as they’ve eaten their complimentary Andes mint.

The only way out of that grind is to find a meaning in the work that outweighs the money that comes back. I found that meaning, even if only occasionally, in the sometimes-small chances I had to make someone’s day brighter and smoother. As best I could, on Black Friday and every day, I tried to keep my focus on the particular people I was serving and the possibility that, as Hebrews puts it, I was entertaining angels unawares. Or as Jesus puts it in tonight’s reading, I tried to focus first on the kingdom of God and the little way I could manifest it there in a restaurant.

As I say that, I realize that I’m speaking from a position of great privilege, being someone who had the financial wiggle room to assume that the bad tips and the generous ones would balance each other out in the end. It wasn’t that way for everyone I worked with. I knew single moms who, when they had a bad day, they lost money on the equation between paying for child care and that day’s earnings. I got to see the strain of that kind of uncertainty, even if the math would indicate that the good days more or less outweighed the bad.

What I wonder is, what would it look like if we created a world where people weren’t desperate to make ends meet? What if we made certain that going to work couldn’t become a losing proposition? At the very least, what if we deliberately paid more attention to those who serve us, especially during this stressful holiday season? Believe me, a sympathetic smile from a guest can go a long way toward helping someone reorient themselves, from worrying about how the day’s bottom line is developing, toward finding value and joy in the work. We can seek the kingdom of God in moments like that.

So here’s an invitation: when you eat out this season, and especially if you do that this Friday, go out of your way to reward someone who is working very hard to serve you. You just might find the joy, the gratitude, and the peace of the kingdom of God.

So may it be. Amen.