Last week, our family was treated to dinner at Red Robin. When I arrived with our son, Tito, we had difficulty getting through the entrance. Too many people waiting to be seated. Holding my son’s hand, we made our way up to the hostess. When I mentioned we were there for Make-A-Wish, the sea of bodies parted.
The hostess took us around a corner to a table flooded with gifts, balloons, even a Lightening McQueen ‘Cars’ tablecloth. Cars are, after all, our son’s favorite. Seated around the table were the faces of grandparents, cousins, and our Make-A-Wish representatives, Connie and Janice, wearing their signature blue Make-A-Wish shirts. It was like looking into the bright skies of a Fourth-of-July night, into the face of a child on Christmas morning.
This brings me to Heidi Trump, the manager at Red Robin in Spokane Valley. She told of her passion to work at Red Robin because of the company’s commitment to UBAs — unbridled acts of kindness. Staff meetings even begin with a call for stories of UBAs as part of the chain’s commitment to the community.
To prepare for our arrival, Connie and Janice had placed wrapped toys sent from Disney-Pixar on the table. Heidi had decorated the table with balloons, a ‘Cars’ tablecloth, and more ‘Cars’ toys for Tito. To top off the magic, Heidi made sure that our waiter did not present us with the bill after having our fill.
More notable, this hard-working woman took a break from the hustle to be at our table for several minutes. Sharing in our son’s joy, her past came alive as she recalled being the poster child for the March of Dimes. At one point Heidi realized that she had been talking too long and needed to return to work — a packed house on a week night, a long wait list, food to deliver. In thanking her for her UBA, she said, “Whenever I give, I get back so much more.”
Our experience at Red Robin awakened me to the reality that unbridled acts of kindness can occur anywhere, anytime, with anyone. UBAs are not reserved for religious folks or the church. During my seminary days, my professors of Lutheran theology emphasized sin as the defining mark of human beings. The heart of Lutheran doctrine, after all, is the cross, bridging our broken selves to God. I was trained to think that nothing good originates within a person, only with God. But how can this be if we are made in the image of God?
Over the past week I’ve been pondering that divine moment occurring, of all places, at a restaurant. At this unexpected place where a stranger entrusted us with her story. At this surprising place for our son to experience love, being reprieved for a few hours from having to answer people about his deformity. Deformed from a tumor condition, but made in God’s image. In a restaurant, yet tasting the true bread from heaven. Experiencing the gifts of goodness, hospitality, warmth, and nurture from Connie, Janice, and Heidi, because they, like all of us, bear the image of God.