Dear Red Shirt Guy in Front of Me at the Deli,
How are you, sir? I hope your meal was enjoyable this afternoon. Mine was great.
I couldn’t help but notice you had an . . . interesting . . . interaction with the woman behind the counter. After placing your order, your voice suddenly became audible, and you announced that you all were about to pray, and asked if there was anything you could pray for the clerk about. I was aware of this part of your conversation because suddenly you were speaking in a non-inside voice, maybe a bit like a public-speaking voice. I know this was not your normal tone or volume because I have no idea what you ordered, but I sure knew you were about to pray.
The girl behind the counter replied with, “I think I’m good. Thanks,” which I found to be generous and kind. See, I, too, am in the food service industry, and I, too, have been approached by religious people asking if they could pray for me. It’s an awkward thing, and not because I don’t want you to pray for me. It’s awkward because you don’t know me. Like, at all. You don’t know my religious preference, or if I would even want you to pray for me. You also don’t recognize that, when you ask your food service worker that, they’re in a tight spot – they’re supposed to make you happy. It’s their job. If they embarrass you, they could be fired. So, even if they would welcome the prayer, and even if you knew each other, it would still be awkward because there are a lot of other guests around that might be put-off about this suddenly-religious conversation that’s keeping them from ordering a sandwich or a salad.
Your follow-up, a reaching-over-the-counter handshake, which, again, she could not refuse, and the also-loud invitation to join you at your congregation furthered the awkwardness of the encounter. You quite obviously made the poor girl uncomfortable, and while your exchange lasted less than a minute, there was a rather lengthy line behind you. It wasn’t the time or the place, brother.
I know you mean well. Well, I hope you mean well. I hope your intention was just to do something nice for that woman. I hope it wasn’t to get other people to think you’re spiritual or anything. If you really wanted to do something nice for that woman, I think just asking her how she is and if she’s having a good day would do the job just as well. Nay, better.
All of this is just to say that, if you want to be spiritual, living it out is better than talking about it loudly. Kindness toward your food service worker would be an answer to a prayer, rather than an advertisement for one. Praying for your cashier in private would be, I don’t know, actually what you are supposed to do, rather than just making a spectacle.
I know I probably won’t change your mind, but I just want you to know that there are a lot of us who have heard a lot of people talk about being religious, and we’re ready to see a little less talk and a lot more action.
Yellow Shirt Guy Behind You in the Deli