After teaching in public high schools for more than 30 years, teaching at Corban is a joy! In fact, I tell people that teaching here is like teaching in heaven. That comparison is obviously a bit skewed, but hopefully it is understandable.
In the past when I have mentioned Corban to friends, sales people, strangers (it sometimes happens when I’m wearing one of my many Corban T-shirts), I get a positive response. I remember the gentleman who sells books on campus. His story was, “Every time I go on Corban’s campus, I open my trunk to get out boxes of books, and it never fails: several young men will stop and offer to help me.”
The responses have always been positive – Whoops! That was true, but the incident last week changed that.
Dinner after church on Sunday with our senior adult friends (yes, I hang out with “old” folks) included Tim, the son of our church’s Children’s Ministry director. Tim has worked in the restaurant industry for years and is presently a waiter at a popular restaurant on Lancaster Drive. His story made me sad.
He had served a group of four Corban students in his restaurant that week. As fellow Christians, they had shared a conversation with Tim. The four had thanked him for his great service, complimenting him profusely on the quality of his service. Sounds good so far, right?
But when they left, after boldly sharing their faith and commending their waiter, the four of them, each having ordered a full meal, left a tip of only $2. Tim was not left with a good impression of our students.
This incident reminded me a story Dr. Marty Trammell, English Department chair, tells about working as a waiter during his college days. He heard a waitress say, “That table won’t leave much of a tip.”
“How do you know?” Trammell asked.
“Because they prayed” was her reply.
Trammell determined at that point in his young life that he would in the future always give more than the usual 20 percent trip. He and his wife Linda have made it a policy: they always share a meal when they eat out, but they tip as if they had ordered two meals.
What do these experiences say to you and me? How important is it to tip the waiter or waitress who serves us in a restaurant? How does what we do in that situation affect our Christian witness? Should it matter?
It mattered to Tim. He and others who serve in restaurants make a big part of their incomes from tips. That is a fact of life.
His story saddened me, but it also spoke to me about the importance of little things: tipping in restaurants, letting people in line ahead of us who have fewer items, stopping our car in a line of traffic to let that waiting car into our lane, and putting a dollar in the Salvation Army’s bucket at Christmastime.
These are the kinds of things Corban students are known for. Corban students are different from other college students; because of their faith, they commit themselves to all sorts of ministries where they can share their faith and help those who are in need.
Maybe we all need to learn a lesson from Tim’s experience: a trip to Africa to work in an orphanage is definitely a worthy venture, but paying an appropriate tip in a restaurant may be no less evidence of our faith.