And the lady pourin’ coffee
She knows the regulars by name
And if she doesn’t know you
She calls you “Honey” just the same
This is a picture of Branka Katic, Serbian actress, in one of her scenes playing a waitress in what has to be a Johnny’s Cafe. I love this picture, though, because of what it captures on her face. She’s in a conversation with someone at the counter, and she is listening intently, as if what was just said was something that fascinated her. It’s incredible what a good actor can capture with just a look.
She’s someone I would like to have working at my local Johnny’s, because I would love to have “the lady pourin’ coffee” be that attentive to me. You have the feeling that this would be the kind of waitress who would sit on the stool next to you during a lull, and go a little deeper with the conversation. She also wouldn’t let your coffee cool off either. She’s very capable. She would bring your pancakes on a separate plate without you asking. She can obviously do five things at once and one of them would be paying attention to you.
She’s probably undervalued and underpaid. She could undoubtedly do a hundred other things that would pay more, but maybe she does this because she actually likes it. She got a college education for this? Well, she’s okay with that because she loves the interaction; she loves the chitchat; she loves flying around tables stoking some fires and putting out other ones. She loves her regulars, but she enjoys strangers, too. She especially loves having people go out happy. In so many ways, she’s a sort of secular pastor. If she could, she’d stand by the door and shake everybody’s hand as they leave.
And why do we like this? Because at Johnny’s we are somebody. Somebody knows our name. Someone’s looking for us. Someone knows how long it’s been since we were in last, and acts as if they actually missed us. And if they know us well enough, they might even ask us about some detail they remember from our last visit. In short, if they do this right, we are made to feel like we belong.
As purveyors of the gospel of welcome — grace turned outward — it is part of our job to make people feel welcome in this world. Take a cue from the Johnny’s Cafe waitress: Make people feel like they belong. Give them your attention. You’ve been waiting for them to show up (because you have). You’re not telling; you’re exploring. Ask open-ended questions. Get people to talk instead of you talking. Take it from my wife who does this all the time: she’s a master of the “Are you serious? That’s amazing. Tell me more,” response, while mine is more than likely along the lines of “Yes, I already know that.” That’s a way to end a conversation and make someone else feel dumb. Whatever you do, don’t do that.
Served up from the kitchen by John Fagliano:
One of our faithful readers came up with this addition to yesterday’s “I wish you enough” poem:
I wish you enough lostness to appreciate being found.
I wish you enough faith to know what is found will not be lost again.
I wish you enough Jesus to know that some of Him is never enough.