Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pssst...Hey, Homeschooler, Is Your Slip Showing?

I'm gonna skip preaching and go right to meddling. Don't worry. I won't have time to take up an offering given how I'm gonna be run of out town on a rail and all. If I don't have to go into witness protection for writing this post, I hope someone will thank me for it.

Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised. I had heard rumblings of this kinda thing from friends who work in the restaurant industry. The first one to tell me how the real world works was, in fact, a Christ-following homeschool mom who waited tables on weekends.

We shared a meal at the restaurant where she worked. When it arrived, one of our group offered to say grace. My waitress friend snickered and said, “Oh good grief! Just don't join hands when we pray. If you do, the waitstaff will start betting on whether we are gonna leave a tip or not.”

My innocence peeked out. “Whaddya mean?”

Seeing my 'deer in the headlights' look, she led me along gently lest she spook me. “Oh, honey, you learn when you wait tables - the family that comes in on Sunday, holds hands, and says the blessin' is gonna be the most cantankerous, cheapest customer you have all week. Cheap and mean. You can count on it.”

Courtesy A. Hughes
She regaled me with stories of how her cheapskate 'brothers and sisters in Christ' had treated her like the enemy while the 'unwashed heathen' were easy to get along with and tipped generously. I should have paid closer attention, I guess, given what happened this week.

In my homeschool community, I facilitate PR for classes, trips and activities. I pass along word of events when I hear of them. Lately, I've done PR for a fella whose faith differs from mine in notable ways. I have been mindful of that reality as we've worked together. I could tell he was watchful and quietly curious about how we differed from one another and why. I wanted to be salty and exude light as we interacted. I hoped he would eventually ask, “Why are we different?”

My PR efforts led to the expansion of his classes to a nearby city. The fee structure for the two hour class was phenomenal. A fee cap afforded opportunities to larger or cash strapped families. I glowed with excitement knowing my PR, simple as it was, had helped this fella's business grow. I was proud of my rocking homeschool community!

That glow turned to a burn of shame this week. I discovered the other class had folded. Clients behaved unfairly asking for additional tuition breaks. I pondered how much cheaper his class was than the local YMCA and how these same folks would not have haggled with that organization. All I could do was shake my head.
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

When asked to expand to a 3rd city for the convenience of some clients, he agreed even though the venue was over an hour from his home. He raised the tuition a modest amount to cover his extra time, gas, and effort, including transporting a large amount of equipment.

The same folks who asked for the class (and had haggled over tuition already) failed to register for the class they had requested. They opted to continue to attend at the original location because they balked at the tuition increase. In the end, the instructor opted to close the 2nd location as well. He'd had enough.

I get it. I do. We are a one income family with a son in college and medical bills that drove us to file chapter 13 and lose a home. Gas and food prices have gone up. I feel it in my coin purse too. 
We are all doing what we can to afford what we can as long as we can.

Courtesy D. Ahola
I understand the need for good stewardship. I struggle, however, when stewardship becomes an excuse for taking advantage of someone who has already gone to great lengths to accommodate our learning community.

As the details of the story came out, I sat in stunned disbelief. I thought back to when I was younger. One of the most embarrassing experiences for a teen girl was for her slip to show beneath her hemline. I felt exposed and embarrassed. It was as if someone hissed, “Hey, you Christian homeschooler, you! Your [spiritual] slip is showing.”

No. I haven't heard the 'other' side of the story nor have I met the folks in the other city. Still in all, I am sad. As he told me the story, I could see the same sense of disdain and disgust sweep over his face that I had seen on the face of my waitress friend of years ago. Inwardly, I wept. I fear my saltiness and light have been tainted by his experience. Any chance I had to share my faith has been torpedoed; the damage will take months and months to repair.

So, on this day of Sabbath rest, I have to ask, “Hey Christ-following homeschooler, is your slip showing?” The world is watching. Oh, how I pray we give them something to marvel at...and for all the right reasons. 

Matthew 5:13-15 (The Message)
Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.


  1. This is great post!! People often just do not think! As Christians we are to be an example of Christ. How shameful it is, when we do not. I have had a very similar experience. Not good.

  2. That's very sad. We as a society have come to value things and our own personal gains over helping and appreciating our fellow man. It's sad indeed that Christians are often the worst offenders in this area.

  3. Thankyou for this very important reminder. We are here as ambassadors for Jesus and are watched in our day-to-day living - not only by people like this gentleman, but also by our own children.

  4. My brother in law has run into this a lot in his home improvement business. Many people want him to charge less because they are fellow Christians. He still has bills to pay. :)

  5. You're right on the mark with this post. We've lived across the road from a fellow for fourteen years who owned his own business for more than 30 years. The first time I spoke to him, he told me that he noticed we left on Sundays and that we must be going to church. He then proceeded to tell me that he wanted nothing to do with us or our "religion" because "those folks with the fish on the backs of their cars are the biggest crooks around". Praise God that He has used our family over these last dozen or so years to shed just a little light and sprinkle just a little salt over this man's life.

  6. Bravo. Well-written and spot on. May those who have ears to hear, hear.

  7. Well said, my friend. Thank you for this reminder. You definitely got my attention. If you are ran out of town, you can always come visit me. ;)

  8. "I believe in over-tipping" Steve Martin from the movie My Blue Heaven. Lawd, may my slip never show...and I don't wear dresses. Good read. Thanks.

  9. This was an awesome post. Years before getting saved, it was a sure bed there I'd walk out of my waitressing job on Sundays with more tracks than tips. It made me reject Christ for years. I'm revolted by Christians who don't tip, because I know what a stumbling block and tool of satan that was in my own life.

  10. I'm a homeschool mom and a waitress on weekends, too. It's a sad but true observation. We owned our own restaurant for more than 20 yrs before the economy tanked. We were right next door to a church... the First _______. (Doesn't really matter the denomination). Our business was also a ministry to the people who worked there. We struggled and prayed with them through family and financial difficulties. We prayed and tried to make the wisest decisions in our business. When the economic downturn finally hit us, we paid our employees first and went without paychecks ourselves.
    Yet, when the First Church folks came in, anything we lived out was quickly overshadowed by demands by adults to be fed from the children's menu, special orders that weren't even on the menu, and low to no tips for all this "specialized" service. And I can see how we can treat others the same in the homeschooling community. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. We are non Christian home schoolers and we have been treated incredibly badly by Christian home schoolers in our community. Even so far as being excluded from the statewide home school group because the first question on the application was 'what church do you attend?' And we'd left it blank. People who are not Christian DO home school, we do exist, and without fail Christian treat us like crap. They are the first to question and criticise my beliefs, even though I do not question nor criticise theirs.

    This also happened to a Catholic friend of mine because apparently Christian only means Baptist. I have never in my life treated anyone the way the Christian home school community has treated us. MY belief system demands respect and love for others.

  12. Excellent! I remember being a barista and the BEST tippers were the blue collar workers, the ones who had dirty hands and had been up since early morning. The worst by far were the well dressed business people: lawyer looking types in suits and heels. They NEVER tipped and they treated us poorly. I didn't notice much the "Christians" but sadly, it doesn't surprise me if that is the case. Interesting!

  13. Very good reminder. I was a server for several years at a very busy, popular chain restaurant in my area. The Sunday shifts were the hardest to cover because no one wanted to put up with the Christians... not just because they were cheap (that is true) but because they were demanding and ungrateful. They made you work hard, consumed the most refills, had terrible manners, and then left 10% max if you were fortunate. Regulars in the restaurant would feel so bad for us that they would leave extra when they saw how poorly the church crowd treated us. And they weren't all from one denomination or church... it was all day Sunday and Wednesday nights too.

    I am new to homeschooling so I can't say I've experienced anything similar in the hs community yet, but I hope to be an example of a Christ follower who conducts myself in a way that reflects His character. Thank you for the accountability and the reminder to do so. God Bless you.

  14. I have been that ex-waitress explaining what it was like to wait on the church crowd.. My experiences in high school and college left a big enough impression that it affected the way I let (didn't let) my children behave in a restaurant YEARS later, and the way that I tip to this day. I'm sure it's not limited to restaurants either. =(

  15. I would hate to think that the fact my family prays before we eat will lead them to think we will be cheap on our tipping. We actually happen to be excellent tippers if you deserve it. If not then you only get the bare minimum, unless you were awful. Now I wonder how many servers lost that 25%+ tip because they saw up pray and didn't bother!

  16. I am humbled that so many of you took the time to read and comment. I hope that we will all purpose together to treat the next person who deals with the public as if it were one of our own children serving us. You know how you want your kids to be treated. That's a great yardstick, don't you think?

    When my friend told me about her experience as a waitress, she also told me that many times what we consider bad service is the direct result of a short staffed kitchen - a fact we would never be aware unless we worked there. She also explained how (at the major national chain for whom she worked) she had to share her tips with the hostess and busboy!

    Those extra bits of insight gave me pause to think twice about how easily I might have otherwise been disgruntled with food service workers. Now, if we are finding service not up to par, I often ask the server how long they have worked at the place and if they are short staffed. Most often, the worker lets out a gasp of relief that I have asked and quietly answers the question such that the tip is not affected!

    I am happy to say, we RARELY receive bad service. We often end up having exceedingly pleasant interactions w/ the staff where we are eating. An attitude of gratitude is often EVERYTHING.

  17. Carol Anne, I like you more with every article you post. I wrote a similar one not too long ago. I sort of cringed when I hit the publish key, but I'm still in town. For now. : ) Love your honesty, your insight and your heart. Left you something on your FB page.

  18. So true. I've known of people in our faith who have been friendly and made efforts with neighbors and co-workers only to drop them the moment they found out the neighbor wasn't interested in "joining the fold". No one needs false friends or people who are only charitable and generous when it's visible.

  19. Michelle! For some reason you comment only came to my moderation page today even tho it was in my email 10 days ago! Sometimes, blogging is a real mystery. I know the behavior you speak of as I have been treated that very way by a community of folks once they realized I was not going to attend their church regularly. It wasn't enough that I was a Christ-follower. I needed to follow him via their particular church to be friend-worthy. Sigh. We shoot ourselves in our own feet, I fear! No wonder 'the world' finds it hard to take us seriously so much of the time.