I was late getting home, so I decided to stop by Panera to get a grilled cheese sandwich.
Outside the wind was whipping the rain across the parking lot as the last hanging-on leaves floated to the ground.
Inside was crowded with people and obviously people in a not-so-good mood. I soon discovered why. The service was in slow motion and each person who received their food, also received an apology for the wait.
I studied the people around me. The man two in front of me was growing impatient with each second he had to stand in line. He repeatedly turned and gave everyone behind him a disgruntled look as if to say “What is wrong with these people?” The lady immediately in front of me was on her phone, complaining about the poor service to her listener. The man behind me punctuated his wait with sighs.
Then I noticed the mom and her two sons. She had gotten their drinks and then sat down with them at a nearby table to wait. The boys, probably about seven or eight years old, were your typical-climb-around-on-the-chairs, poke-your-brother-type of kids.
I saw the mom rip a couple napkins in half and then say, “Okay, let’s think about this.”
For the next fifteen minutes (we had a long wait), she talked to her sons about division and the number six. As she talked, she moved the napkins around as a visual example of what she was saying. Then she asked the boys to show her. Immediately, they were fully engaged, laughing and doing what they could to be the first one to answer their mom’s questions. By the time their order was ready, the boys knew how to divide one, two or three into the number six.
Later, I just happened to be walking out the door the same time as the mom and her kids.
“I think you guys have the number six down.” I smiled.
The mom smiled back at me. “I like to take advantage of every opportunity and what better time to do that than when we’re waiting in line.”
As I drove home, I thought about the mom. She had used her waiting time wisely, rather than being impatient or yelling at her kids to stay corralled.
What if we all did that? But instead of teaching sixes (although that’s important, too), taught a memory verse or biblical concept we want our kids to learn. What if we made it a fun few minutes while we’re standing in line or waiting for the roast to get out of the oven? What if our kids saw those captured moments as a time when Mom or Dad’s attention was focused solely on them?
What if we smiled when we were teaching instead of threatening, “You can’t watch TV until you say this verse!” or “Sit there until you learn that,” (while we’re across the room playing a video game. Or maybe we’re not really caring if our kids are learning at all! We’re too tired, too distracted, too …
The mom at Panera took advantage of what could’ve been a bad situation and turned it into good.
You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 11:19)
No, not every wait at Panera should be a theological sermon, but we should look for opportunities to creatively, joyously, and intentionally teach our children God’s Word … and how to divide the number six.