by Stephanie Burkard (2013)
People came in and out, oblivious to the feelings of the servers that hid so well behind that plastic smile. When you serve, nothing can get to you. Your pay depends on how funny, helpful, and timely you are. Some people switch out “funny” for “quietly respectful”. It just depends.
In the back hallway, I covered my face and stood against the wall. Just for 5 seconds. Table 5 needs water. Table 2 needs their check. Table 10 needs 3 miso soups. My brain ran as my eyes closed- and opened. And then I ran.
“Sute-chan! Did you get table 2’s check?!”
“I’m doing it now.”
“Did you see table 4 added extra sushi to their order?”
“No, I’ll write it down now.”
Time slowed for the customers as it raced on for us. Then came the blow.
“Sute-chan, don’t go to the Japanese customer’s table anymore.” “Hai.” I didn’t ask.
“Japanese people are very particular. If one thing is out of sorts, they get all upset about it.” “Hai.” Don’t talk to me like I don’t know what Japanese people are like, I thought inwardly.
A few minutes later, a more detailed and painful explanation came. “One of the Japanese men, he’s allergic to foreigners.”
My heart dropped to the floor. Pain seared through my chest as my plastic smile melted. “What do you mean?”
“He doesn’t like foreigners. We’re not like that, but some Japanese people are very particular. You weren’t what he was expecting. It’s just expectations, you know? You wouldn’t like it if you went to eat sushi expecting Japanese people and some Chinese person took your order, would you? Don’t take it personally.”
The storm of the restaurant work became a storm in me- hot, red, fragmented. The flames inside melted at the smile. I only kept it up when speaking to customers. I’m sick of the racism. I could feel the hate- not just the prejudice of this man, but of all the Japanese people who had ever treated me the way he did. Gaijin. Foreign trash or novelty. Either way, not a valuable person.
“God, I wish my favorite customers would come!” I prayed. I wanted to smile genuinely towards people who appreciated my service- who would know my name and have a good time.
Miraculously, within 5 minutes, there they were. Father and three year old, sushi loving, girl. Mother was busy working that night, but the two of them were there. Two of my favorite customers! And then it occurred to me.
The kingdom of heaven is like a busy restaurant. The customers I have go there- and Jesus, the waiter there, serves all people, racist or kind, with the same focused diligence and love. The racist man who complained to the restaurant about my imperfect Japanese presentation is His favorite customer. The father and daughter who thank Him with every dish and enjoy joking with Him are His favorite customers.
This blew my mind. These people are all Jesus’ favorite customers. Wow! Thank God! I am not the best customer by ANY means, and yet I’m Jesus’ favorite customer! That’s the easy reaction to the story- and although it’s true, it’s not the only proper reaction for me.
Wow. These people are all Jesus’ favorite customers. Jesus has called me to follow Him. I say I follow His example. My religious label, “Christian” means “little Christ”. Kinda like, “Jesus wanna-be”. Sometimes God tells us to do things or be things because He himself is that way. (Ex. “Be holy as I am holy.”) For me, all this translates to this; these people are all my favorite customers. Even if I know table 3 will only leave a 10% tip, even if I know table 6 tips based on how much I make them laugh, even though I am foreign trash to table 1, and even though table 7 loves and appreciates my service, these people are all Jesus’ favorite customers. These people are all my favorite customers.