Wait On It

Derrek Corry

It’s a reminder that, in our busy lives, we should strive to look beyond our own needs and recognize the hard work and challenges of those serving us. They deserve our respect, empathy, and generosity—now more than ever.

Being married to a waitress has made me look at the service industry in a completely different light. I don’t think I ever realized how tough and taxing those jobs are. Sure, I’ve worked my fair share of crappy jobs in the past—everyone has. But there is something unique about waiting on people in a restaurant. On busy nights, you’re not sitting down, you’re not getting dinner yourself and you’re certainly not taking any breaks. Your entire job is to make sure others are having a great time, even if they are being rude. 

I’ve seen my wife come home so exhausted she could barely stand, and I’ve seen first-hand the emotional toll that a job like this can exact on a person. My wife loves her job, and I imagine many waiters do as well. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Since she started waitressing, we’ve made it a priority to be extra kind to our server whenever we ourselves go out to eat. We do our best to be understanding, polite, and make their jobs a little easier, because we just never know what kind of day they are having. 

This leads me into my story. 

Last week, my wife and I decided to take ourselves out to a nearby restaurant (which for obvious reasons to come shall remain nameless). We had a sweet waitress who was working her last shift of the night. We got to talking and we found out she was getting ready for her first day of college. We live in a college town and this isn’t too abnormal. She was nervous, but excited. We kept talking and we found out that she was extremely nervous about paying for things. 

For those of you unaware, college is expensive. 

My wife and I applauded her for trying to work her way through college. When we said this, she got a sheepish, almost embarrassed look on her face. Without trying to invade, we asked her if she liked waitressing. She told us;

“I love it, but I wish I got my tips.” 

We were stunned. Come to find out, the restaurant took the tips earned by the waitresses, leaving them with little to nothing. Now, all businesses operate differently. Some will take those tips and distribute them evenly so they can give a base pay to all their workers. This is very rare and it was not what was happening at this restaurant. We were appalled and we felt bad for this poor freshman, trying to do her best, obviously crippling under the weight of everything she needed to do and pay for. 

In case you don’t know, some waitresses (like my wife) make about $2.35 an hour, which means they live off of tips. We wanted to do something for this waitress. Not just because we had Build then Bless money to spend, but because we felt her pain. We understood what it was like to be a college student trying to make it through college, and we understood the stress of a low-paying job. To her credit, our waitress wasn’t telling us any of this to complain. I think she saw a kindred spirit in my wife, and couldn’t help but talk about what was going on. 

We decided to Venmo her a large tip to thank her for her service and to wish her well on her first semester of college. I don’t know what her reaction was to that tip. You know why?

Because she went back to work. 

She didn’t have time to sit and thank us—which wasn’t what we were looking for—nor did she have time to sit down and breathe for a moment. She had tables to serve and a million different places to be. 

As I reflect on this experience with this particular waitress, here is what I learned: 

It’s easy to overlook the individuals who make our dining experiences enjoyable, especially when we’re caught up in our own lives and problems. However, this encounter served as a powerful reminder of the humanity behind the service industry. Every waiter, waitress, or barista has their own story, challenges, and dreams. They’re not just there to serve; they are working towards their own goals, just like the rest of us.

What struck me most about this experience wasn’t just the injustice of her situation, but the resilience and determination of our waitress. In the face of financial struggles and the unfair practices of her workplace, she continued to show up, serve with a smile, and pursue her education. It highlighted for me the strength and perseverance that so many people in the service industry exhibit daily.

This experience has reinforced the importance of empathy and generosity in everyday encounters. Simple acts of kindness, like a sincere “thank you” or a generous tip, can make a significant impact on someone’s day or even their life. It’s a reminder that, in our busy lives, we should strive to look beyond our own needs and recognize the hard work and challenges of those serving us. They deserve our respect, empathy, and generosity—now more than ever.

To me, this is what Build then Bless is about. 

There are opportunities for service everywhere. There are opportunities not to just bless someone financially, but to make their day just a little brighter. Don’t forget that the little difference we make can sometimes be all the difference. 

And don’t forget to tip your waiters. 

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