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Nikki Lamberg turned a disappointing drive-thru experience into a lesson in grace and gratitude for her children.

Recently I went through a drive-thru as a treat after my daughter’s gymnastics class since it was getting late and we hadn’t had supper yet. We waited in line after ordering for what my kids thought was forever, but in reality, was likely a solid 15 or 20 minutes. I sympathized with my kids because after a certain point in time, we all can become “hangry,” where we think we are so hungry we border on the verge of being angry.

We finally get to the window where we can get our food and my kids are thrilled. I thank the employee for our food and pull ahead so that the next person in line can receive their order. Upon review of the contents in our bag, I very quickly realized that not everything was accounted for. They did, in fact, happen to forget our fries. To me, it wasn’t a big deal as I only eat a few of them anyway and will shamelessly take a few of my kids' before passing their bin of them to the back seat. However, this time, there were three of us, two of whom were angry, one of whom I had just promised could have the whole container of fries to themselves, and the other whose they forgot to include. As I realized what happened I uttered something to the effect of “Oh no.”

My 9-year-old, who has a hard time hearing me ask him to pick up his room, clearly heard me say “oh no” from the third-row seat behind me. If hangry hadn’t come out before, it certainly decided to rear its ugly head at that point. He was all upset with accusations of "how could they possibly forget my fries?!"


french fries


I quickly remembered a song by Rodney Atkins titled “Watching You," where he talks about the moments in life that we got caught up in as a parent and don’t realize our kids are watching. I highly recommend taking a few moments to listen, but the lyrics go something like “You know I’ve been watching you, Dad ain’t that cool, I’m your buckaroo, I want to be like you.” I think about this song often, and truly believe you are never too old to be influenced. I still find myself watching my parents and how they handle situations, using their reactions to help gauge and guide my own.



However, it was in this moment, fresh out of fries, that I realized I had two choices. I could either display my feelings outwardly at the frustration of the situation, knowing my kids would ask to get back in line, or I could use this moment to teach a lesson. Although I was tired and frustrated myself, and I really didn’t want to have to wait in line AGAIN for another 20 minutes just for fries, I knew there was a lesson to be had here for me too.

I knew my kids were watching me and how I reacted to this situation, and I wanted to be a good model of behavior for them. I wanted them to understand that when frustrating situations arise, they can think back to this experience and have one more reminder of the right way to act. I explained that sometimes mistakes happen, and we must deal with them and move on. After a very rapid reply that yes, they would like to get back in line for their fries even though it may take a while to get them, we pulled around and did just that. I explained to the employee what happened and after waiting another 15 or 20 minutes, we pulled up to the window.

I could see that the employees were tired. They appeared to be short-staffed on what had proved to be a very busy night. She apologized for what happened and thanked us for being so patient. Knowing that my kids were still watching me very closely, I looked her in the eye and offered a genuine thank you for helping me to get the situation corrected.

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Whether or not we know or don’t know if someone is watching us, we should always do the right thing. #catholicmom

This time after we left, I wondered how many times a customer genuinely said "thank you" to her. I don’t know if my thank you made a difference to that employee or not that night, but she made a difference to me. I also think my kids learned a lesson in gratitude that night, because although the fries we had waited so long for were cold when we got them, there was not one complaint, but in fact a genuine thank you for going back through and getting them.


drive-thru sign


She reminded me that whether or not we know or don’t know if someone is watching us, we should always do the right thing. We should try to remember to do unto others as we wish they would do unto us. Your smile, your hello, your thank you, might just be the gift of God using us to help someone else. The situation my kids and I found ourselves in that night was yet another reminder to give others the grace that we wish to be given.

You truly never know what someone else’s day might have been like, and you just may be that one person that gives them the grace and hope that they needed.

Copyright 2022 Nikki Lamberg
Images: Canva Pro