I had an unusual experience the other day; I went into a fast-food store to have a quick lunch and ended up in a conversation with a store manager. We talked about some "general things" then talked about the coming of Christmas and how that would effect his store. (Open till 10 on Christmas Eve but closed on Christmas Day). Then he told me how he and his wife would share Christmas morning. As I listened I was stunned; this is a story to share...
He told me that on Christmas morning that I-hop was one of the few restaurants that would be open and that for the past several years he and his wife have spent Christmas morning there. He told me that his children were grown and would not be able to come for Christmas, but that he and his wife would have a leisurely breakfast at I-hop and then "enjoy the blessing of buying other customers meals." I know I must have looked shocked. He went on to tell me, "It's amazing how many people are all alone, in I-hop, on Christmas morning. They look lonely and sad, many look like they are dealing with troubled times. So my wife and I tell the waitress, ' bring us the check for that one,' "bring us the check for that couple over there,' 'let us have the check for that family.' Many of them never know who paid for their meal but some figure it out and come to thank us. When they ask us why we bought their breakfast we simply say, 'This is Christmas morning, the day when Jesus was born and God announced to the world that He loved us; we want you to know that He loves you too.'"
I didn't quite know how to respond to his story. I never told him that I was a pastor or a family therapist. I simply said, "What a wonderful and blessed way to spend Christmas." But I knew that this was a story I wanted to be a part of and I knew that this was a story to share.
When I returned to my church I visited with some of our leaders and we decided to take some money from our Helping Hands fund for me to give this gentleman to assist in his ministry of blessing others on Christmas morning. But then, the story really got interesting...
The next day I went to a civic club meeting and it just so happened that the "program for the day" had fallen through. So, after the meal, the President conducted a couple of items of business then asked, "Before we adjourn does anyone have anything to share?" I quickly offered to share a brief Christmas story. As I shared the story about the man and his wife who loved to buy meals for strangers on Christmas morning at I-hop; a young lady in our club said, "Oh, my gosh!" She then went on to say, "three years ago I was going through a difficult and chaotic time and I had my children on Christmas morning with no breakfast meal prepared. So, I took them to I-hop. As we were eating the waitress came up and said, 'your meal has been paid for this morning.' I was stunned and never knew who it was who actually bought our breakfast but I can tell you it was a wonderful blessing for me and my children that Christmas Day.'" When she told me the I-hop she had gone to I knew it had to be the same "saints" that I had come to know.
I cannot begin to tell you how blessed I was by this sequence of encounters. Further, I was truly encouraged to find that in the midst of so much turmoil, strife, and division in our world, there are people whose only goal on Christmas morning is to make sure that others are blessed and to help them know that God loves them on this special day. This is truly a story to share!
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.