Everyone Has A Story

Posted: October 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

So I was sitting at a local IHOP a couple months ago, and a truly amazing thing happened. It was probably the most powerful, insightul thing that had happened to me up until that point in the life of Rich 2.0. Hopefully this will affect some of you, hopefully you will all take something away from this and apply part or all of it in your own lives. I was out for a late breakfast early lunch with a friend, and we had just been sat in one of the booths in the middle of the restaurant, a great table to get a view of the entire restaurant. The young hostess subconsciously did the correct thing, and let the man have the seat facing the door (a MUST in the restaurant business). We immediately began to scan the menu for the most filling, greasy, hangover food one could have.

Our server approached our table moments later, and just with one glance I could tell she wasn’t have a good day at all. Her name was Julie, an older lady possibly in her mid 50’s, a hopeless look on her face and you could tell she was grimacing from being on her feet since 5 am that morning and probably dealing with unruly customers who were out at shopping malls all day after returning and exchanging Christmas gifts that were unwanted or were the wrong size. Julie began our dining experience by asking what one would expect any server to say upon greeting a table. “What can I start you out with this afternoon?” I looked Julie up and down, remembering how possibly awful of a day she was having and without thought I replied: “How about a high five???” The biggest smile came over Julie’s face and instantly you could tell her day had gotten that much better. The pain on the instep of her feet had instantly disappeared, the pain in her wrists from writing down countless orders of pancakes on her undersized pad of guest checks was gone, and the ache in her back from carrying heavy trays of plates was history. Her arm raised and she proceeded to give me the biggest and best high five she had ever given. She had even offered a high five TO my guest!

It was the beginning of a phenomenal breakfast. Who orders a breakfast appetizer??? Well WE did that day! After smiling and high fiving, we decided to start out with a healthy order of Biscuits and Gravy. complimented by my coffee with 1 cream and 2 sugars. Instead of being in a rush like the other 47 tables in the restaurant, we took our time and enjoyed our apéritif petit-déjeuner, enjoyed our conversation amongst ourselves AND with Julie, as she was very eager to keep our much-needed hydration sources such as ice water and coffee filled to the top. We went on to order further, and decided that we were going to splurge and get the Strawberry New York Cheese Cake Pancakes. MMMMMMM.

We received our main courses and our fruit and batter monstrosity and as I picked apart my Breakfast Sampler, a very interesting thing happened to me. I started to realize exactly what had happened in a quick instant with Julie. Was she feeling insignificant? Was something going on beyond her control that she felt like she needed to just keep pushing? One thing for sure, the fact that we acknowledged her awesomeness beyond the normalcy of a routine dining experience, changed her day and her outlook. I can’t speak of how the rest of her day went or for her life since for that matter, but I know that if I were to go back tomorrow and see Julie, she’d remember this day. The moment continued. I’ve always been a pretty active people watcher. But normally it would be times when my friends and I were younger and we’d hang out at the Food Court at the Mall of America. I’d see a big mexican guy leaving the taco stand and say, “Ricardo, whatcha doin??” or Eric would see a Chris Farley lookin guy and say, “Kevin, you’re not supposed to be here!”, or Jerry would see a tall lanky white dude and say, “Rich, you better get a second helping you need some more meat on your bones!” (ok, so I really took that one to heart.) But this time was different. I began to REALLY pay attention to what was going on around me.

At the booth across the aisle and in front of me was an older couple, possibly in their early 60’s. The gentleman had the biggest “Deer In Headlights” look I have ever seen. His wife was doing all the talking while he just sat there nodding his head, occasionally saying a word or two. The wife got up and went to the bathroom I assumed, and while she was gone I looked at the husband again. What was going on? It was a look of stress and frustration that I have never seen or had the wherewithal to even notice before. Did he just laid off? Were their savings gone? Are they about to lose possibly the house that’s been in their family for generations? Who knows. But I felt helpless and I felt like approaching him and giving him a pat on the back and let him know that whatever it was, it was gonna be okay.

I then looked at the booth right to the left of me which we were divided by the pane of wood-framed glass. It was an older woman in her late 40’s with who I assumed was her mother in her late 60’s to early 70’s. Not a lot of words were exchanged between the two, and when there were, they were accompanied by bursts of laughter, at times some tears as they each sipped their own steaming hot coffees. The server had been to their table at least three times to fill their pot in just the short time I observed them. What was going on here? Had they had a recent death in the family? Possibly the mothers husband, which would be a father AND a husband, a grandfather, possibly a great-grandfather? Of course such a man would have had the opportunity to touch so many lives, no wonder why it would bring two wonderful ladies to both tears AND laughter in mere seconds. Was it the daughters husband? Another sense of warmth came over me, knowing that the mother was continuing her endless duty to console her child during what has to be an extremely difficult time. I wanted to go over to them, clink my coffee cup with theirs and say “Cheers”.

I scanned over a few other tables to see a large group of eight which appeared to be two groups of friends that were reuiniting, possibly one group was from out of town and was getting ready to depart after their Sunday brunch. They were joking, laughing, some in deep conversation while others were playing show and tell with different items they had accumulated or exchanged during their visit. I wanted to go over to them and join in on the party. Another table was a family of four consisting of a mother and a father, and two cute little girls – one aged 7 to 8 and another approximately 3-4 in a high chair. The kids were so full of life playing with their color crayons and dolls while their parents cut up their sausage links and made sure their scrambled eggs were chopped up enough for them to eat small enough pieces. They had probably just came from church and were getting a bite to eat in before they returned home to enjoy their Sunday off – all before the beginning of a long work week and bringing their children to day care each day. I wanted to go over to them and pull an Hour out of my pocket so they could spent that much more time together as a family.

I quickly began to realize what had happened. I wasn’t just people watching. It was like I was looking directly in their eyes, reading their emotions, their thoughts, their feelings. But I’m not psychic nor am I a mind-reader. People wear their emotions and thoughts on their sleeves. Their bodies SHOW them. I realized that everyone has a story. Everyone has different things going on, whether it be happy, sad, normal, traumatic, etc. How often do we stop to even notice? How often do we even stop to even ask? How often do we even acknowledge people we do not know? Next time you see someone on the street, someone at work, someone at a bar that you do not know or have ever said hi to before, say hello. Ask them how they’re doing. Give them a high five. Let them know that everything will be ok. you don’t have to say it. Your body just has to WEAR it.

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