*The preface to this evening’s post is unpleasant. On so many levels. Little ol’ Lewisville, Texas, the place I have called my home for the past twenty years made national headlines over the past 24 hours. For nuthin’ good. Late last night, an employee of one of our local fast food establishments, Whataburger, refused service to two local police officers. Corporate Whataburger dealt swiftly and fired the employee before morning.
Local news turned into national news quickly. If you don’t live around here, you can read the storyline here. Warning: the headline is typically misleading and many of the comments are completely vile. Read at your own risk.
This all happened at my neighborhood Whataburger. It happened at a place where friends of mine work. I have always counted it a privilege to know many of these folks. There’s the morning manager who never fails to tell me he’s praying for the men of our church who meet there every Thursday morning. The little ladies who work on the grill like to come out and play with my granddaughter. An afternoon shift guy always asks, “Pastor, how was your Sunday service this week?”.
They’re not perfect. Sometimes they are a little slow, but they are always apologetic. Sometimes they get my order wrong, but they keep trying till they get it right. They employ people with physical and mental disabilities. Sometimes it makes for pretty good comedy, but I love that they have a heart for the least of these.
Because they are my friends, it makes this particularly hard for me. Yeah. I really do care about my local fast food restaurant. I care about what’s being said about them. I care that their reputations are being maligned. Whataburger didn’t do this. One really ignorant, calloused, person did.
These are rough days for our country. Lots of hate. Lots of anger. Lots of division. I am deeply saddened that these officers were treated the way they were. I get it, but I’m not here to offer social commentary publicly tonight. I’m here for my neighborhood.
I decided to visit my local Whataburger tonight. I wasn’t sure what I was going to find, but I knew I wanted to see and listen face to face. I was greeted in the parking lot by the CBS news truck and antenna that had been there since 6:00am. I had an urge to go push it over.
When I walked in the door, it wasn’t hard to miss the presence of the armed, African-American, female police officer walking through the restaurant, smiling and talking to patrons. I felt safe and grateful she was there. I didn’t get to talk to her, but others were expressing many words of gratitude. She looked tired, though.
I’m friends with the gal behind the counter. She had been there since early morning and I asked her what it had been like all day. She said they had had one of their busiest days ever, with people coming in non-stop to buy food and offer words of encouragement. She was choked up as she told me how much it meant to her.
I learned that many from corporate headquarters had been there all day, along with visiting the police station to offer apologies for their wayward, and now fired, employee. They obviously care about their reputation, but they seem to care more about simply doing the right thing.
I picked a good time to go and I was able to talk with a number of employees. Most were people of color. They were all weary and had been deeply affected by what had happened. Their respect and gratitude for police was obvious. They were all deeply aware of the issues that are dividing us and are hoping for healing. Someday.
I’m glad I went there tonight. My perspective is wider. I’m better for having been with all of them.
And I’ll be back there in the morning for my favorite time of the week…Thursday Morning North Point Men’s Whataburger.