For many years, as a single man, I ate most of my meals in coffee shops and diners. This was a combination of not being able to cook much more than coffee, cereal, or toast. The cost to grocery shop for one was about the same as it was to have a hot meal in the comfort of an eatery where there was a complete menu to choose from. Additionally, I was saved the chore of washing my own dishes. The best part of eating away from home was having a waitress, or server as we call them nowadays, who took my order, brought me the food and kept my coffee cup filled. The title of the “server” was certainly earned by all those hard-working women. There were very few men serving in the coffee shops and diners that I frequented.
Over many meals and cups of coffee, it was impossible not to overhear one server telling another server or boss about the car that had just broken down, how she needed to be able to get to and from work, and how she would now have trouble dropping off and picking up her small children from the babysitters or daycare. Everyone has problems, but car problems were the most often heard from single women in the coffee shops.
I was friends with a very interesting customer at a nice coffee shop in a California beach town. Jack also ate most of his breakfasts and dinners in the coffee shop as I did. He always sat in the same booth where he would entertain a series of other single diners by eating together and swapping stories. Jack was very popular with the servers as he was not only friendly but he was also a good tipper; a man who truly had a heart for people and enjoyed being around them.
Jack’s profession was upper management with a family of car dealerships spread out across California, Nevada, and Arizona. The nature of his work took him away on business trips on a frequent basis. Even when out of town, Jack skipped room service or the dining room in a hotel in favor of a meal in a local coffee shop. Following his professional life with cars, his favorite hobby was buying and fixing up used autos. Whenever I visited his home, I always noticed 2 or 3 cars in various stages of repair and restoration. He was a good mechanic and he had the knowledge, tools, and resources to get most cars back on the road and made dependable. His work for auto dealers gave him access to good used cars at very low prices. Often, all a car needed was a battery, brakes, and a tune-up; all things he could take care of from his home garage.
This is where the “servant” served the “server.” Like me, Jack was very aware of the need many servers had for a good, reliable car to be able to work and take care of their family. His solution was to offer a server a car, free of charge, to be used for as long as was needed until the woman could either afford to have her car repaired or make payments and purchase his car. On many occasions, I saw him slip an envelope with a set of keys to the manager who was also a good friend of ours and ask him to make sure that Linda, Helen, or Susie got it. He would include a copy of the registration, a letter from him with authorization to operate the car, proof of insurance, and an agreement outlining his terms. This was all done without fanfare or fuss. Jack was very humble and when asked why he did this, he would reply, “I am very fortunate, I am able to, and I want to give back.” I knew Jack for over 10 years and during that time I know that he helped many women in life changing ways. Besides the car ministry, he also stepped up when a minor house repair needed to be made or to accompany a woman to an auto repair shop to ensure that she was treated honestly and fairly.
Jack passed away quite a few years ago leaving a legacy of service, caring, and faithfulness. I don’t remember Jack as being especially spiritual or religious, although I believe he may have been raised a Catholic. I am sure that God knows him as a man with a heart for service.
This is an article that I wrote for the July 2017 issue of Faith On Every Corner.