23 Cents


It was one of the only restaurants in town.

And then it closed down.

In a way, it was my fault.

We used to meet there every Sunday morning. I was teaching a Sunday School class for teenagers. When I first started teaching, they would beg me to take them out for some breakfast. I usually said no. More and more, I started to give in. Eventually, we were meeting there every week.

That restaurant was a funny place.

If you looked behind the counter you could see buckets full of grease sitting on the floor. Well, it looked like grease. I hope it was grease. I think.

And they were usually out of stuff. At least two Sunday mornings a month, we’d hear, “We ain’t got no more” when we ordered a biscuit or some eggs. How can you not have “no more” sausage? It’s 9 in the morning. You’ve been open for two hours. How do you run out of sausage in just two hours? Were you looted just before we came in? But we never asked those questions. We just turned and walked to our tables and enjoyed our sausage and biscuit without the sausage.

My favorite thing about that restaurant was paying for our food. I wish that the NSA was recording everything back then so that I could pull it up on YouTube and show you how this all went down.

Restaurant Worker: “What you want?”

Me: “I’ll have a biscuit, eggs and a large orange juice.”

Restaurant worker: “That’ll be 23 cents.”

Me: “Sorry?”

Restaurant worker: “23 cents.”

Eventually, I stopped saying sorry and just paid the 23 cents. Coincidentally, I also started ordering a lot more food.

Me: “I’d like a biscuit, eggs, a large orange juice, two hamburgers, a milkshake, one of those hats they make you wear and the drive-thru intercom.”

Restaurant worker: “That’ll be 23 cents. But we ain’t got no more hats.”

I was amazed. This was quickly becoming my favorite restaurant. Sure, the food was questionable, the grease buckets were full, the roaches were active and there weren’t usually any eggs for the omelet you ordered but it was cheap. Dirt cheap.

But how?

I found out that one of the workers was friends with the mother of one of the guys in my Sunday School class. Apparently they were really good friends. I’m guessing that this guy’s mother must have saved the restaurant worker’s life at some point. But who cares? Just give me my 23 cent breakfast.

I did wonder from time to time how this restaurant afforded to give us these bargain prices. It turns out that they couldn’t. Which explains why we arrived one Sunday morning to discover that our Sunday School class had been boarded up.

The worker thought that she was doing us a favor. And I guess that she was. We got to eat a lot of food without paying a lot of money. But she wasn’t doing herself any favors. She certainly wasn’t doing her boss any favors.

That lady that gave us all of those deals wasn’t the owner of our Sunday School restaurant. She just worked there. It was her job to provide quality service to the customer while generating revenue for the business. Instead, she just gave stuff away. Until the place where she worked went out of business.

There’s a fine line between compassion and stealing. Compassion is an act of self-sacrifice to help another in need. Stealing is what you do when you act as though someone else’s money is yours.

I wish that old restaurant would open back up for just one day. I’d like to have a meal there with a few of our leaders up in Washington D.C. You know, the ones who think that the answer to every problem is just to spend more money that doesn’t belong to them. I’d like to see the look on their faces when they walk up to the counter to place their order.

Politician: “I’d like sausage and eggs.”

Restaurant Worker: “We ain’t got no more.”

At some point, if things don’t change, that’s a phrase that those politicians will have to say to their hand-out seeking constituents. But, although there will be nothing more to give, those politicians will still want all of us to pay up.

And it will be a lot more than 23 cents.