I once heard a principle that when you are out of town you should “eat where the locals eat”. That might mean passing the “known” places to get to a small hole-in-the-wall place. I generally go to my hotel and don’t come out until the next morning, but when I do go out, I try to follow that principle. Tonight happened to be one of those nights. The venue turned out to be a local place called the “Red Ox Bar and Grill”. Lack of seating meant finding a place at the bar (in front of the 100 something inch HD TV for the Red Sox and Mariners by the way).

I would equate the experience tonight to “people watching with sound”. I firmly believe if we are to understand our culture, we must immerse ourselves in our culture. We must sit down next to those we long to understand and not rely on the TV, Radio or magazines about “what’s going on”. This is our opportunity to get a front row seat to what is going on in the lives of people we don’t know. After all, isn’t that where Jesus went? Isn’t that what Jesus did? Isn’t that who Jesus met with? We have much to learn from the life of Jesus.

Although I didn’t say much, I listened. What I heard was the story of a bartender who comes to work at 7:00pm, works until the early morning and then works out until 6am. He then goes home to bed and gets up in time to do it all again. I heard the story of the man next to me that “had the kids this weekend”. His plans were to attend the race (The Brickyard) and then fly to Vegas for a night of gambling. He plans to then return to Chicago to catch a Cubs game. I couldn’t get over the irony as the overhead music played the following lyric by the Eagles:

“So often times it happens that we live our lives in chains
And we never even know we have the key”

I wondered if that wasn’t so true. I thought how often (believer or not) we “spend our lives in chains” without realizing we are the one that hold the key. We are the ones that chose our will, our way, our path. The other thought I had sitting there is that under different circumstances, I’d love to be a bartender! I would love to speak the name of the regulars and hear their stories. I would enjoy listening to what is happening in their lives and pour into them whatever wisdom I could impart. I would be right at home “where everybody knows your name”.

Next time you are looking for a place to eat, I highly recommend finding a place “Where the Locals Eat”. You never know what you may find out about our culture, your neighbors and yourself.