Walking the Line
It’s Sunday night and I’m finally kicking back a little. Today was a fun day. Janet and I spent the day with our grandson, Cooper, and we ended up having lunch together. But it wasn’t any ordinary lunch – more about that in a minute….
First a little history. Jonathan and Ginny Byrd have been friends of our for years. Seven years ago, Jonathan suffered a serious stroke that left him unable to continue running his businesses and, unfortunately, two years ago, he passed away. In late August, I actually wrote about him in a post called “Remembering Jonathan Byrd.” Anyway, since that time, I have been asked to help the Byrd family with their company. So far, it has been a great experience. In all the years that I have known Jonathan and Ginny, it never even remotely occurred to me that one day I would be working in the the world’s largest cafeteria – that’s right, Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria.
Admittedly, aside from the corporate side of things, there have been different emotions that have come into play. For example, I am sad sometimes, and I miss my friend. How many times have I been in that cafeteria and had wonderful conversations with Jonathan? I can’t even count them. And now I am there almost every day that I am not on the road or working with other local clients. Sometimes, there are feelings of inadequacy. Because Jonathan was larger than life, and his gift of hospitality was unlike any I have ever seen. So trying to follow in his footsteps, and step into his business, is a daunting assignment.
Nobody knows the vision that was in his mind; and things have changed in the world during the seven years that he has been absent from the day to day operations. So the things that might have worked when he was at the helm are not necessarily the things that will prove successful today. But some things never change….
For example, I remember all the times that Jonathan would seem to be distracted during our talks, many of which were held in the dining room. But he wasn’t distracted – he was multi-tasking. A potato chip on the floor, silverware not bundled properly, crumbs on a table, a patron’s glass that needed to be filled – nothing escaped his trained eye. Jonathan was the consummate host, and to this day, Ginny is the greatest hostess you could ever ask for. Jonathan’s stamp was all over that place – he took pride in his establishment; and it had to be as perfect as possible – presentable at all times – to anyone who may happen to come through the door.
Now, I find myself taking on some of those responsibilities myself. Whenever I enter the cafeteria, the first thing I do is to “walk the line.” This is new to me – although I have seen Jonathan do it countless times. It’s when you start at one end of the serving line and you inspect everything being displayed or served to the customers. It’s starts with salads, then desserts, hot entrees, veggies, breads, cookies, drinks and finally, the cashier.
There are obvious things such as making sure that we are not serving broken cookies – or slices of pie with broken crusts; and then there are the more obscure things such as making sure that the ice and the garnish look fresh and crisp and clean. And that our servers are preparing the correct portion sizes. And that we aren’t spilling anything between the serving trays. And that we cover the open places in the steam tables while we are waiting for more food to come out of the kitchen. And the list goes on, and on, and on….
This may seem a little dramatic, but it is so important. Because it goes to how we are perceived by our customers; and how we welcome them into the cafeteria. We want it to feel like “home” – like “family.” Because that is what has happened for 23 years – Jonathan Byrd’s has served meals to the people of Greenwood and is now inextricably entwined with the community it serves.
So this week-end, Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria started their 23rd anniversary celebration. Every day for the next month, they will offer one entree at the price charged back in 1988. Pretty cool, huh? And the response has been great – it was a wonderful week-end. Cooper, our five year old grandson, has been fascinated with my stories about all the food in the cafeteria. Today, I decided to take him with us so he could walk the line with me. He loved it. It reminded me of some of the times I used to spend with my grandfather – only today, two generations later, I’m Grandpa. Hopefully, this will become one of his fond memories – the first time he “walked the line” with me.
There’s a strong lesson here. I couldn’t help but be reminded of it as I watched Cooper today; you could tell that he was on his best behavior. Because Christ expects the best from us as well – he wants us to be presentable at all times as His ambassadors. Paul tells us as much in 2 Tim. 2:15, a letter he wrote to his young pastor friend in the New Testament, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” Each of us should endeavor to do the same things – always be ready.
My encouragement tonight is to make sure that you realize that God knows that we can’t be perfect – but He wants us to try. Just like Jonathan expected from his team. Do the best you can, and keep your standards high. By the way, it helps if you have somebody looking over your shoulder, holding you accountable. My prayer is that with Christ’s encouragement, and the friends you have around you, you will strive to be presentable to God – offering yourself as a living sacrifice to the God of the universe. Grace and peace…