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The Strangest Thing I Ever Saw Happen at a McDonald’s

April 14, 2014

It was early morning and the sun was starting to peek through the large front window.

I sat at the local McDonald’s, poring over my teaching notes as I sipped a fresh cup of coffee and tried to shake the cobwebs from my head.  The outside traffic was still light and inside the store a few patrons were sitting at the various booths around the dining area. It was rather quiet and quite pleasant.   Like most folk, I need a quart of caffeine and a good chunk of silence in order to face the day ahead.

Two young men – I believe they were about fifteen or sixteen years of age – were enjoying a lively discussion and an ample amount of sausage biscuits, hash browns 1bbband, believe it or not,  Cokes.  One was red-headed and one was a brunette and both wore the casual clothes of public school students: colorful t-shirts, khaki shorts and major league baseball caps.  The two teens put on an admirable display of both chuckling and eating simultaneously.  They weren’t loud or rude; you could hear them simply having a good time.

I glanced up an saw an interesting sight nearby.  An elderly gentleman – probably in his late seventies –  sat a few tables away from the boys, wearing a bemused expression as he watched the two fellows chomping and laughing.  They were not aware of his presence, but he became so enthralled with them that he completely ignored his meal and stared at them.  I could tell he was going to say something to them.

They continued on with their animated chat, acting out various parts of their stories with wide gestures and bug-eyed faces.

“You two are something else,” the old man called out.  “Something else, you two are.”

The two boys stopped and glanced around and saw the man.  He grinned widely, but I couldn’t tell if it was malicious or mischievous.

“Say, now why would you come into a restaurant wearing a backwoods T-shirt like that?” the elderly man demanded.  “You look like some farmhand from the holler.”  He got up and shuffled to them.

The red-headed boy shrugged and grinned.

He came right up to the dark-haired boy.  “That’s a muscle T-shirt you got on there, huh, son?  Your problem is, you don’t have the muscles to make that shirt work, boy.”

The boy looked across the table at his friend and shook his head while smiling.  “No, sir, I guess I don’t.”

The old man turned to the redhead.  “Your mama feed you to many chilies, son?  That’s probably what made your hair red.  Looks like your head exploded.”

The red headed boy nodded.  “Yessir, I guess that’s what it was.  She was always like that, I guess.”

The old man scratched his head.  “And you’re in here drinking Coca Colas when only a sane person would drink coffee or at least an orange juice, by golly.  You boys can’t run on sugar.  ‘ats what makes the school system so sorry.  You boys go to the school down the road?”

“Yessir,” Both nodded and looked up at him.

He shook his head in an exaggerated fashion.  “Pitiful school.  Stupid teachers and idiot graduates.  Kids comin’ outta there can’t even make a decent greeter at a Wal-Mart.”  He looked at them with steely eyes.  “That’s your goal?  Sleeping through school and comin’ out with some worthless piece of paper, then living off the government?”

“No, sir,” the red head answered.  “College for both of us.  We have a few years to go, but college is where I’m heading.”

The old man leaned forward.  “So you’re gonna be a grad, huh?  Oughta dress like one, too, right now.  Coming to school in a baseball cap… why that team’s the worst in the league, to boot.”

“That’s the truth,” said the dark haired boy.  “But they’ll pull it together soon, I hope.”

“And you two better pull it together if you want to do something with your lives,” said the elderly man, pointing a crooked finger at them.  “You understand me?”

“Yesssir,” said both boys, nodding.  I noticed they hadn’t eaten a thing since he started talking.  Their hands were at their side and whenever he talked they looked him right in the eyes.

He shook his head.  “Boy, what a mess.”  He shook his head and shuffled back to his table, gathered up his food and went out the door.

The two boys looked at each other and went back to their food, a little more subdued but not perturbed in the least.  They were smiling, but their smiles were sheepish and not, as I expected, ones of mockery.

The boys were totally respectful to the elderly gentleman, who seemed to want to tease to the point of cruelty.  I was quite impressed by their polite demeanor to the older man.

But what happened next surprised me even more.

A middle-aged businessman with a dark beard and a crisp suit walked briskly over to the boys, adjusted his glasses and coughed lightly.  The two young men looked up at him, and I could tell that he was unfamiliar to them.

“Fellows, I saw the whole incident while I was sitting over there,” he said with a nod of his head towards a corner booth.  “That old man was really trying to push your buttons and get you angry, and yet you showed him great respect.”

The two young men shrugged politely and nodded.

“I wish more young people were like you,” he said, pulling out his wallet.  “I’m giving this to you as a thank you for making my day a little brighter.” He dropped a handful of dollar bills on the table.  “Just when I think people don’t try to get along, I see some young people like you give me a hope.” He left a small pile of dollars on the table and left quickly.

The boys looked at each other and looked at the money.

I dropped my eyes to my notes but I wasn’t reading anymore.

This was a powerful truth about what I saw.

My semester’s emphasis on Bible teaching had been a concentration on battling the enemies around us.  After all, we get faced with persecution and hostility, right?

But…

… couldn’t I take the lesson from these boys – I had no idea whether they were Christian or not – and learn to concentrate on also returning hostility with a friendly response?  Jesus gently but firmly reminds me:

If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.”   – Mt. 5:39

My first lesson of the day.  In a McDonald’s dining area.

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