The Frontline Worker

Throughout the period of the Covid19 pandemic, like many, I have refrained from eating in restaurants and cafes, restricting myself to occasional take-out. As an added level of caution, I have limited myself to doing business with only a couple of fast food establishments that appear to be taking the public health situation seriously.

There are perhaps many side effects from this decision.  Some would say I might grow tired of a grilled chicken sandwich with a side of fries. That I might lose a taste for my favorite combo after the 20th visit. But, after five months, that hasn’t occurred.  Call me routine, but I tend to eat the same thing with great regularity.  Most people probably do.  And the negative side effects from my restricted Covid19 eating, if they are coming, haven’t arrived yet.

But one positive side effect has occurred from going to the same fast food drive-in. I’ve gotten to know the staff.  They recognize me as the grilled chicken, large fries with sweet tea guy. It must be my deep North Carolina twang or the way I order, because I’m sure I’m not the only person in this area who likes a chicken sandwich with fries and sweet tea. Anyway.  Somehow, they’ve come to know me.  And me them.  
This past week, I stopped for yet another grilled chicken sandwich and the lady on the intercom said, “Where have you been? We’ve been looking for you!” Looking for me? What for, I wondered. Have I won a food-for-life coupon as a regular of the local burger joint?  Bonus!!

When I pulled the truck around to the window, the manager of the store leaned out and said, “We’ve been looking for you.  We wanted to let you know that Melanie, one of our take-out ladies died last week. We know you would want to know.  It wasn’t Covid, but she developed something with her kidney, and it affected her heart.  You have been so regular that we think of you as family and thought you would want to know.”

In the moment, my heart broke.  The woman she was speaking of was a bright spot of hospitality in a world coming apart at the seams.  She brought a blessing and a well wish every time I grabbed the bag of grub from the distancing window.  And she was one of thousands of otherwise faceless frontline workers that I have had the pleasure of meeting during this pandemic.

“I have something for you,” said the manager.  “Come around to the door and I’ll give it to you.”

Driving the truck to the side door, the store manager brought out a long-stemmed purple flower and handed it to me.

“I was with her family for her resurrection celebration” said the woman. “You being a preacher and all, I think she would want you to have this.”

After wiping my eyes, I said, “Tell her family she was very much appreciated by a person she served. She touched my life in small but powerful ways. I will remember her and will tell others about her.”

And so, I have.

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2

In honor of all frontline workers,
Pastor Frank