The Father’s Day Note

My wife and I were finishing our dinner at a small café recently. I couldn’t help but notice a bus boy picking up all the dishes left on the tables while at the same time taking the chairs and stacking them on the tables.

There was no one working harder than him in that restaurant.

All the patrons walked by him. No one noticed him or acknowledged him.

He got to our table, and I put out my hand with a tip in it. He looked at my hand, then looked up at me, with a completely puzzled look on his face. 

I’m guessing all night long he’d heard requests for silverware, for more water or for an additional napkin.  Those requests he understood immediately.

But, someone, handing him a tip and saying thank you for working so hard, seemed to stun him.

As I handed him the tip, I said, “Thank you for working so hard.” 

He looked at me for a moment. You would have thought I handed him a winning lottery ticket.

Then he quietly said, “You made my night.” 

I don’t think it was the money that made him say that. I think it was the acknowledgment; I see you. I appreciate you. You’re doing a great job.

What made me think about this was that, on Father’s Day, I received the most wonderful letters and phone calls from our three sons (we have triplet boys who are 23 years old now).

They had all recently graduated college and moved to New York.  As you can imagine, a certain quietness has ensued in my life. No more rushing to school events, no more football games, no more urgent matters to deal with.  Our three sons were on their way.

In the newfound quiet, I found myself beginning to think about how I’d done as a father. There were certain things I wondered if I could have done better and I thought, one day, I’d like to ask our sons, “How did I do as a father?” 

Then, I received their notes on Father’s Day. I was so overwhelmed by what they wrote. They mentioned so many moments, so many lessons, so many observations that impacted them.

I couldn’t believe they noticed most of the things they mentioned or were aware of them.

One of the things they mentioned was the way I treated bus boys in restaurants.  I thought I’d been so discreet about that. I’d always tried to wait until our family was leaving the restaurant and then give a tip to our bus boy without drawing attention to it.

However, I do remember, many a time, sitting at dinner with them and saying, “Look how hard that busboy is working.”

I couldn’t help myself. That was the first job I ever had: working as a busboy, serving meals at a banquet hall, and then cleaning hundreds of dishes afterwards. 

I absolutely loved that job. What great memories.

As I thought about all this, it occurred to me that our sons will be the first generation in our family that didn’t wash dishes, serve people, and bus tables.

My grandfather did it, my dad did it and I did it.

Our sons worked just as hard as we did, as they grew up, but in different areas of life: selling cars, delivering groceries, internships at a local bank, and more than anything… education. Boy, did they work hard at that. For many, many years.  

Whatever success they achieve in life, I hope they always remember to see and acknowledge ‘the bus boy’.  And then, ‘the bus driver’. And then, ‘the checkout clerk’. And then ‘the mechanic’.  And on and on. Remembering always, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27

Their lives will be richer for it.

Keep the faith,