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A Letter to the Applebee’s Waitress

Dear Chelsea,

You’ve had a rough week.

First, there was that pastor who visited your restaurant and decided that, because she gives God 10%, she should be excempt from the 18% gratuity on her bill. Even though you weren’t Paster Bell’s server, it’s infuriating to see that kind of disrespect from guests. When she was called out for her stinginess, she should have apologized. Instead, she got you fired.  I’m sorry. That really sucks.

Alois Bell Applebees Receipt

Situations like this are always awkward for Christians. In the name of our God, someone has done something really stupid and embarrassing. We cringe as we see it, knowing that many people will say, “See? That’s just how Christians are!” Sometimes it feels like Christians do more than our fair share of stupid, embarrassing things – what with our boycotts and televangelists and the Crusades and our bad tipping and all that. Really, most of the Christians I know are kind and generous and caring people. But the obnoxious/violent/crazy ones seem to get the most press.

Following Jesus isn’t easy. We have such good intentions, but we mess up. As a former server, I always make a point of tipping really well. But I know that I’ve done other embarrassing stuff that would make me blush if it ever found its way to Reddit. I’m sorry that you had to see the ugly side of Pastor Alois. If I knew your address, I would send you and your fellow servers the tip you should have gotten that night. And I’d ask your forgiveness, on behalf of my fellow Christian.

See, that pastor forgot one of Jesus’s most important teachings.

Jesus once said that if we show love and generosity to those around us, we are showing generosity to Him. By stiffing you, she wasn’t just ripping you off… she was ripping off God too. Ironic, isn’t it?

A lot of us are pretty upset with Alois Bell by now, and I understand that. But, though it’s our first impulse, I wish that we wouldn’t be so quick to throw her to the sharks. We follow a religion that teaches grace and forgiveness, yet we’re so quick to condemn those who embarrass us. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be embarrassed, or that we shouldn’t call her out. But we should probably remember that we all do stupid and bad and awful stuff sometimes, and that’s why we needed Jesus in the first place.

I’m sorry Applebee’s fired you. I hope that they give you your job back, or that you find a better one. I hope that Pastor Bell apologizes to you and your colleagues for her lousy actions. I hope you’ll give Christians another chance.

And I hope that all of us who follow Jesus will go out of our way to be extra generous next time we get a chance. 

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  • Doug

    Great post – couldn’t agree with you more, Micah.

    • Robert Martin

      I would suspect that ‘Pastor’ Bell is only a pastor for tax evasion reasons judging from her actions. If you can’t afford to dine out you shouldn’t be doing so, especially if you can’t (or are too damn cheap) to tip your server! I am a poor working man and when I go to a restaurant I tip appropriate to service and regularly tip in excess of 20 percent for stellar service – these people need to be able to pay their bills and if they place a concerted effort in pleasing their customers that server should be rewarded. Even when service is dirt poor I won’t stiff a server – that is just too crass!

      I pray that not only her church remove her from her position but the Internal Revenue Service investigate Ms. Bell for other financial abnormalities. She wrote the note on the bill – she should just pull up her skirt and besides admitting she was in the wrong she should go back to Applebee’s and make amens with getting the waitress her job back.

      If the alleged ‘Pastor’ is an example of how God-like people should act then I think I’d rather go to Hades – her behavior is certainly not reflective of God or Christian values!

  • Sheila Bird

    This was awesome Micah. I am a waitress and I see these embarrassing situations when I am scheduled on Sundays. The place that I wait is at a Buffett, so Sunday lunch is our biggest lunch and I have to come in and work the lunch and dinner. There are very few tables with the standard 2-4 guests, they pull one, two and even three tables together for friends and family. Keep in mind, that we have to bus our own tables and set up for the next guests, at $2.17 per hour we can only make money by revolving guests, however our Sunday crowd is a tough one. Once you get everybody’s first drink out of the way, you have a little time to pre-bus your table which does two things, keeps the table clear for the guests and sets you up for a quick clean at the end of their stay, however their stay is greatly extended by conversation and countless trips to the dish room……pre-busing that table, filling drinks and now I’m making some fresh coffee and it’s now an hour later. It’s at this point where I start to pray “please Father, let my service here be enough” and essentially I am praying for that much needed tip that is so hard to get from my brothers and sisters. Some do, most do not, and once they all leave, I begin my cleanup…..but its not the table. I do my second cleanup when I begin defending my families that left nothing. Every Sunday there is a pause between Lunch and Dinner and when everybody is standing around hating on the $6 and $17 tips made in the last four hour lunch (11-3). I have to remind them of everything that you just said in this post. I also have found that this experience has allowed me to use this example of Gods amazing love and how he will forgive anyone for any sin because of what Jesus done on the cross for our sins. Yeah they get tired of me sometimes throwing in my two cents, especially when I am the one with the $6, oh well I still have $5.98…….

  • http://distractedblogger.wordpress.com kendallashley0128

    What a great post. It is so easy to get blindly angry when someone does something like this, especially in the name of God. Thanks for the calm, graceful, lucid response to the situation.

    • http://redemptionpictures.wordpress.com micahjmurray

      Thank you!

  • mark

    loved your post….

  • lyn

    It’s people like “pastor” bell that make me utterly ashamed to have ever identified as a religious christian. I now consider myself spiritual and a follower of Christ, but I simply cannot endorse or follow the human religious teachings that amount to people like this. Sadly “Christians” like bell are more common than not. While I can appreciate that fact that she made a mistake and appears to be owning it (I’d rather guess she’s more sorry for getting caught than actually sorry) as a “pastor” she should know better and be better aquatinted with the teachings of Jesus than she is. I hope she learns from this, and I actually hope she loses her job, as her blunder was just as bad, if not worse, than the servers.

    • http://redemptionpictures.wordpress.com micahjmurray

      Lyn, I really know what you mean by that. I’ve also struggled with figuring out how to self-identify as a Jesus-follower when so many people get publicity for doing stupid things in the name of God or Jesus. I still say that Christianity is my religion. The Church is God’s idea, not ours, and as much as I’m tempted sometimes, I can’t abandon it. Following Jesus isn’t a solo project.

      You might enjoy this post I wrote about some of that a while back: http://redemptionpictures.com/2012/03/27/religion-or-relationship/

  • Anonymous

    You call out the Pastor’s actions, but not the Pastor herself. You have to marginalize people like Bell. It’s no different than WBC or Muslim jihadists. If your group that you attach themselves to doesn’t disown them, then you are allowing it. You could even compare it to the Catholic Church and the pedo scandals. They say child abuse is wrong and bad, but they don’t throw the offending priest out.

    If any Christian came out, showed that Bell had no right to be called a Pastor (such as no formal theological schooling), asked for the IRS to investigate, and that her church be shut down in the meantime, then I could call you a good Christian. Until that time, all the people, like you, are doing is saying “we’re sorry that we are assholes.”

    • Mike Knisley

      This stuff is bad behavior, to be rebuked, but to compare a small angry note, without a tip, to terrorism, murder, and child abuse is irresponsible. Before the internet, this note would have found it’s way to the trash can, the server and her peers would have been upset by it – JUSTIFIABLY upset – but no one else. And that’s how life is. You run into jerks, and you try to learn how best to navigate those experiences without behaving badly yourself. Everybody in the retail and service industries is well acquainted with that fact. But equating stinginess with pedophilia shows poor judgment. I sincerely hope that this server, who doesn’t deserve the media storm she’s now receiving, receives the opportunity of a lifetime in a job that she finds both satisfying and financially worthwhile.

      And I greatly enjoyed this article, micahjmurray. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    She deserves every bit of scorn she gets for her actions, for which she’s not sorry about, only sorry she got caught publicly. She deserves the scorn because her actions not only caused one person to lose their job, but probably several at this point. She not only got people fired, but the backlash against the corporation affects the franchisees and their staff without fault of their own, so on top of a number of people losing their jobs, there will be hundreds or even thousands, being affected financially for this.

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  • Ann

    Well said, Brother Murray! The whole foundation of a Christians walk is to be rooted in the love that Jesus teaches us. Ms. Bells rude, unfeeling written ‘note’ shows such a lack of this basic principle. Still, the fact remains that this lady is only human, and we all make mistakes. She needs to see evidence of Christian Love as much as anybody else. Villifying all Christians because one person claiming to be a Christian Pastor makes a mistake (albeit a very public one) makes no more sense than saying all restaurant servers are bad because one had a lapse in judgement, posting a customers signature online. Push the hate aside people. This world needs all the unselfish love (Agape) that we can possibly share.