Welcoming Jesus to the Dining Table….A Different Kind of Social Gospel

I was in a restaurant with a good-sized group of Christian women, each of us paying separately.  We had a private room and one waiter.  When people began leaving he got confused and accidentally gave my bill to someone else who had left earlier.  When I got ready to leave, he realized his mistake.  The person he gave my bill to had a larger bill and he knew he’d messed up.  I could see his immediate distress.  So I took the other woman’s bill, paid it and told him it was not a problem….that she and I are friends and neither of us minded.  He looked so relieved I almost wanted to hug him. He’d done a good job for our group.  When I am in a restaurant I think about reports  I have heard about what poor tippers and problem customers some Christians can be.  I hope our group’s appreciation of him today helped overcome any such negatives he might have experienced in the past.  
The past week I had 3 separate opportunities to take  one or two young women out to eat as special “treats” to express appreciation/celebration for accomplishments they’d had.  In two cases there was a little bit of restaurant etiquette coaching that I had the chance to do.   We chatted with our waiters and enjoyed our meals.  I was careful to tip well for the service.  Getting help with the awkwardness of situations they are not accustomed to is an opportunity that some children don’t get a lot of growing up.  I remember the first time I was taken to a nice steak house as a teen on a date.  I was at a loss how to eat asparagus, as I’d never had it before. I also had never had a T-bone steak before, so I had no idea how to tackle it.  I was self-conscious about looking at the menu prices and being shocked and not knowing words like “a la carte”.  My awkwardness at that meal is something I still remember. 
A friend commented recently that many children today don’t get instruction in etiquette and use of table settings or exposure to some things that others take for granted.  It made me more conscious of that with the young people I come into contact with, to give them some encouragement to explore new things and feel comfortable asking for help in social settings like restaurants.  Those kinds of things are easier to do one on one instead of in large groups. 
One of the young ladies that had been treated to a celebration lunch earlier in the week had struggled with how to eat asparagus and why the napkin had 2 forks in it.  Then Sunday she had a Mother’s Day lunch in a restaurant with me and two other women.   She said, “You sure treat me well!”  Knowing she had a history of parental abuse, my heart was touched.  My response was that I was glad that she felt special and that God wants all of his children to be treated well. 
Jesus enjoys being with us at the dining table, I believe.  I’m not always so aware of his presence as these situations have made me.  It gives an altogether different meaning to the phrase “social gospel.”