Last night we ate at Red Robin, a favorite place of ours to grab a burger. Don’t bash me for eating at a chain. They make pretty damn good burgers. Normally, I get the Banzai burger which has teriyaki sauce and pineapple on it. I never change my mind. When it comes to eating out, I know what I like and I stick with it, including eating at the same restaurants. Call me boring. Go ahead. I’ll still get the same food every time because I know it’s good. (which is odd considering I am willing and adventurous to try any food at least once…who knows how my mind works. If you figure it out, let me know.) But something got into me last night. I decided to branch out into the unknown. Drum roll please…..da dum, da dum, da dum, da dum….I was going to try a new burger! I know…it’s the little things that excite me.
I went for the Prime Chophouse burger instead of the Banzai. Be still my beating heart! (maybe literally because the calories in these things are ginormous, but who’s counting?) And guess what? It was delicious! I loved it! Okay, maybe you’re not that surprised that I liked it. I mean, who doesn’t like a good steak burger with onion straws, steak sauce, horseradish, mushrooms, and melting cheese?
As enjoyable as the burger was, it became unimportant as I bore witness to the love and joy of sharing at Christmas time. At a restaurant, you say? Believe it or not, yep. Our waitress, Kim M., was a bit frazzled from a rush of customers. Running hither and yon, she breezed by our table and took our order quickly, apologized for the wait, and hurried to another table. A lot of people would get upset at not being waited on hand and foot, or coddled as though they are a “celebrity” who chose to grace the restaurant with their presence. Don’t deny it…you’ve seen the attitude, too (or been a culprit). I’ll admit, in the past, that would have been me.
Over time, though, I have learned that there is usually a story behind how someone is behaving or treating me negatively, in my eyes. It’s not about me…and it’s not about you. It’s about them and how crappy things are in their life at that moment. As much as we admonish people to leave their personal lives at home when coming in to work, it doesn’t always happen. It’s not always possible. And at times, it’s appreciated because it helps us realize that we are all human and struggling in our own way.
Now, we’ve had Kim as a waitress before. She is a delight and joy to be around and as a waitress, she makes you feel as though you are her only guests. She has a special knack for touching your heart just by serving you. Tonight, she looked drawn and weary. Her eyes didn’t have their normal sparkling light. Our food took longer than normal to get to our table. She kept apologizing profusely every time she rushed by. We didn’t mind. We were enjoying conversing and people watching (a favorite pastime of mine). Finally, she brought us our food and paused for a moment’s breath at our table. She remembered us from times past and asked if we needed anything else, apologizing, asking what she could do to make sure we come back for another visit. We assured her that we would always come back. It’s not her fault that it was so busy. What point was there in getting upset? It wouldn’t help anyone.
I asked her if she had any special plans for Christmas. The light dimmed in her eyes even further. Kim quietly told us that her husband passed away suddenly in September. She’s doing her best to make things as ordinary as possible for her three kids – a 22-year-old daughter, and 17-year-old twin sons. She’s working as much as she can to provide for them, but her manager was kind enough to make sure she had off on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and so forth so she could spend the time with her family. She was calm, but I could see the flickers of pain and sorrow.
I mentioned that my spouse’s mom had passed away suddenly in May so we could understand her difficulty with the Christmas holidays this year. And then Kim being Kim, with all her love and compassion, hugged my spouse tightly, told her I’m so sorry, and they commiserated on their shared pain with tears in their eyes. She gave me a hug, too, and wished us both a Merry Christmas, again asking if we are sure we would come back to the restaurant. How could we not after witnessing such a warm, deep heart? Of course, we would be back. We left her a 50% tip, which still wasn’t much as our own finances are tight, but we give where we can.
We left Red Robin in awe, humbled by the experience. I’ve become more patient with people in the service industry. You don’t know their history, their background, or where they are at in life. Maybe they treat you badly one day, but have you ever thought that maybe something in their life is causing it? Don’t take it personally. Remember that they are human just like you and me, and since we can’t always push aside our struggles while at work, neither can they. Have patience. Kindness goes a lot further than anger and you may be surprised at the result.
You can find Christmas everywhere if you’re just willing to look for it.