I found a Waffle House nearby. A gaggle of late-night patrons filled the booths, so I grabbed a counter seat. From snatches of overheard conversation, I knew that my fellow diners were oilfield workers and regulars at this particular eatery. After placing my order, my sitting-down place being weary from the drive, I rose and began to read the material pasted on the grease-filled walls of this tiny, but hospitable place. Several worn posters celebrated Waffle House’s service to the public for over 50 years. This brand has been serving America’s short-order food needs with a largely unchanged menu since 1955.
I was stopped in my hungry, weary tracks by a poster that read: “283,115,520 ways to build a Waffle House 100% Angus burger. Better get started!” My interest was aroused, my imagination was piqued and, for a few fleeting moments, I forgot my hunger. Who knew that there were so many ways to dress the humble hamburger patty!? Who knew that such diversity and choice existed from within modest Waffle House offerings!?Over the next few days, crossing county and state lines on my journey, I pondered the potential of so many hamburger alternatives. Eventually, my mind wandered and I began to extend the truths of my Waffle House learning beyond its original sitz-im-leben to more metaphorical and personal applications. I wondered how social, economic, political, religious and interpersonal life might be richer and better if I and my fellow travelers on life’s road might stop to consider the many substitute choices hidden within all-too familiar situations. If an unpretentious meat patty at a common eating establishment affords so many options, then why does life so often seem limited, choices so constricted and viable alternatives so hard to come by?
Politicians, pundits, preachers and others in the public square too frequently present life’s challenges as though there are only two ways to go - their way or the highway! Because we have always dressed our hamburgers one way, it may be too easy for us to assume that there is no other way. When we face that old, familiar besetting sin or seemingly intractable social problem, surely we would benefit from considering the possibility that there may be other, better approaches to handling it. Just because we have yet to discover a cure for the common cold, there is no reason to assume that we have exhausted the list of potential solutions.
If Waffle House has thrived for over half a century by giving people choices, they just may be on to something foundational. Maybe my universe is a lot larger than I have imagined. Maybe I have more prospects than I have assumed, after all. The next time I feel hemmed-in, cornered by too few conceivable solutions in my life, I’ m going to pull over at Waffle House, order a burger (or pancakes and bacon) and think about it a little longer! Imagine the possibilities! Better get started!