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The First Church of Waffle House

A fistful of black letters flicker atop the pale-yellow background. The sign is broken, but few care. Because they are broken too. There is a place, like God and grandmother’s house, where the door is always open. You may find better food elsewhere, but you won’t find better food for the money. They have a menu, though I have never needed it.

When you sit down at the table or the bar you will likely be greeted by someone who calls you “honey,” or “sugar,” or “baby,” or sometimes “boss.” But you will be greeted, and usually with a smile. And by someone who knows what it means to work long and hard for very little.

Some of them are working their way through college. Some of them are single parents trying to pay the rent and keep the lights on at home. Some are ex-cons trying to hold down a job by wiping tables and desperately trying to believe the rumors of second chances.

On any given day there might be a family of five seated near you with three small children scarfing down jellied toast and scrambled eggs. They’re here because the food is cheap and sometimes dad doesn’t want mom to have to cook after working twelve hours at the shirt factory. On one side of you will be three bikers and a war veteran swapping stories. On the other side will be an elderly couple who come every Thursday night. They come just to hear the voices. Their own kids have long since stopped visiting, and they’ve already buried all of their other friends.

It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or where you’ve come from, you are welcome here. Strait-laced or strung out, drunk or sober or in that fuzzy place in between. In blue jeans, a business suit, or pajamas. No one is turned away.

Waffle House may not be a church, but many of our churches could stand to learn a few things about open arms and second chances from this wild, wayside diner.

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