Super Bowls, Plates, and Trophies

When we arrived downtown, the fog was thick. Later that night, while we slept, the wind and rain hammered at two sides of the hotel.

And yet hundreds of conference attendees, the next morning, still drink coffee like strangers. 

But among these iPads, cell phones and conference pens, I cling to my well-connected yellow pencil. I like the way Ticonderoga rolls between my fingers.

Here, the teachers are more cheeky than my own students. They text like caged animals. But even those who listen, judging by their sketchy responses, often miss the point of a presenter’s question.

I drink lots of coffee here.

Lunch in the ballroom. Tomato bisque soup. Deflated mandarin oranges on my chicken.

After the emcee dismisses us, my server stops me with a smile. Her strong arm hoists a stack of dirty plates. The leftover sauce works as a blessing, it seems, holding the white edges together like a good denture adhesive.

Now I see why the banquet organizers use, er, serve that sauce …

She looks me in the eye. “I thought you guys were going to have an awards ceremony?” She turns and stretches her arm toward another plate. 

“We did,” I answer. 

She turns around. “Really? When?” 

“You were passing out our plates.” 

“Oh, I missed it then. Well, you all have a great day.” 

“Yes, you too,” I say. 

But my eyes go somewhere else. Toward the doors. After all, I had to find the best route to my next exit without the help of a helicopter’s traffic report. I need to be ready. I have places to go. 

But something doesn’t feel right. A voice tells me to turn around. I look for her eyes. 

“Thank you for serving us,” I call. 

. . .

Last night I returned home from Indy, a city now racing to get ready for a Super Bowl. In just over a week, the downtown core will serve more than 150,000 people. 

A team of communicators has already begun setting up a social media command center, the first ever for a Super Bowl. There, professionals will tweet directions and parking tips to strangers.

Oh how we long to be served. Sometimes we covet a good parking spot even more than a trophy. 

But I’m still drawn to the twinkling eyes of a woman who served so faithfully that she missed the award presentation completely. 

This behavior belongs to another kingdom.

This post is being shared with Laura Boggess for …

And with Michelle DeRusha for …

24 thoughts on “Super Bowls, Plates, and Trophies

  1. Matthew, I am getting caught up on your blog and I can’t stop reading. I want to drink lots of coffee with you and get caught up with you. I love you!


  2. I just recently attended a conference in Houston and loved getting to know several of the servers the week we spent hunkered down in the walls of the hotel. My husband was in charge of it so he started relationships early but I love the way you told this story. How that woman served so well she missed the awards. It made my perspective bigger. My first time here, enjoyed your writing.

  3. I really dislike going to conferences; I’m such a wallflower. Sometimes I have to flee to my room and breathe deeply before I face it all again.

    I just finished up a class on the Holy Spirit at my church this week, and it seems to me that the Holy Spirit was working in you that night, prompting you to offer appreciation to the server. So often I ignore those prompts. I’m glad you didn’t.

    Thanks for linking up, Matthew.

    • Conferences make for strange aquariums, don’t they? The water might be fairly clear on day one. But then turns cloudy rather quickly. Sometimes we just gotta do what we gotta do to keep our eyes open and our gills breathing. Even if it means a few quiet moments back in the room.

      It’ll be great to run into you at a conference someday, Michelle. You don’t have to say anything. Just make your best fish face.

  4. I have goosebumps at the thought of her twinkling eyes and her servants heart! You said it so beautifully…
    “But I’m still drawn to the twinkling eyes of a woman who served so faithfully that she missed the award presentation completely.
    This behavior belongs to another kingdom.” Oh, I know it does! What a beautiful reminder. Thank you for the twinkling of the spirit which flows from your “pencil”!

  5. Total aside but I must say. . I LOVE Ticonderoga pencils. There is such a difference, right?
    Seriously though, this is beautiful. That you really see when thanks should be spoken. . because someone “served through the awards, not noticing they were happening.”
    I pray to have that sort of a servant’s heart.
    You have a real way with words. Truly Matthew. Just beautiful strings of loveliness here.

    • I may be the world’s biggest Ticonderoga freak. Just ask my students. Or my wife, who contacted the company, before we got married, to ask if they would send us pencils with our name and wedding date printed on them.

      Oh, I’m so glad you understand, Danelle. :)

  6. The source of this quote is unknown and copied from a friend’s wall: “Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress. Don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.” It is a great quote and I think expresses the servant’s heart of your server. I’m so glad you stopped to thank her! God bless servers everywhere. Once again, your post is beautifully written. Thank you.

  7. I absolutely love the way you draw me into a story. And that photo is perfect. But your point is well-made. This tired world sighs and moans, clutches beauty so tight we must look close to see, and…

    “And yet hundreds of conference attendees, the next morning, still drink coffee like strangers.”

    I’m still thinking about that, Matthew.

  8. “But I’m still drawn to the twinkling eyes of a woman who served so faithfully that she missed the award presentation completely. This behavior belongs to another kingdom.”

    I love this. And yet, I wonder how many times I have rushed to my next thing, forgetting to thank the server I’ve just left behind? Your words are a powerful reminder to slow down, to look up, and to really see.

    Another awesome post.

    • I can be so awful at verbally expressing my thankfulness. But not because I don’t feel it. The rushing of the world, or even of my thoughts, pushes it to the side. I like how your reminder isn’t just “to slow down” but also “to look up”.

      Yes, Denise. That’s exactly the right direction. Keep looking, friend.

  9. Can you imagine serving our Father so faithfully that we don’t get distracted by the shiney things around us? What a goal to have! Thanks for stopping by my blog last week, nice to meet you!

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