In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Fred Harvey was a name almost every American knew. He came from Britain to America and made his mark in the food industry. Working with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroads, he built a chain of restaurants across the great Southwest which became legendary for their commitment to quality and their devotion to the customer.
In his book, Appetite for America: How Visionary Businessman Fred Harvey Built a Railroad Hospitality Empire That Civilized the Wild West, Stephen Fried says Harvey originated the first national chain of restaurants, of hotels, of newsstands, and of bookstores-"in fact, the first national chain of anything-in America."
He recruited single young women in the East and then sent them to work in his restaurants from Kansas City to California. In doing so, he inadvertently provided wives for countless westerners and helped to populate a great segment of the USA. The young ladies were known as the Harvey Girls. A movie, starring Judy Garland produced in 1947 tells their story.
Once, in the short period before women took over the serving duties for his restaurants, Harvey was fielding a complaint from one of his "eating house stewards" about a particularly demanding customer.
"There's no pleasing that man," said the steward. "He's nothing but an out and out crank!" Harvey responded, "Well, of course he's a crank! It's our business to please cranks. Anyone can please a gentleman."
Anyone can please a gentleman.
It's our business to please cranks.
If that sounds familiar, let me remind you what Jesus said: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you....for if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even Gentiles do the same?" (Matthew 5:43-47; in greater detail in Luke 6:27-38)
Anyone can love his pleasant neighbor, friend and brother. But, it's our business to love our enemies, the stranger and the person difficult at work. It's our business to love those who hate us, to do good to those who do us wrong, and to give to those who will never be able to repay us.
Anyone can love the nice guys, it's our business to do the hard thing, the unexpected thing, the good thing. We bless those who are cursing us, and do good to those who are intent on destroying us.
It's what Jesus did.
It's a difficult task - but it's our job to please the cranks.