As our world continues to go through dramatic changes and shifts, we are all being called to serve. Every one of us has unique and individual ways we can serve others and the planet every day. I believe it is more important than ever to recognize this and to consciously act from a heart-centered place of sincere caring and concern.
My wonderfully spirited daughter Lani, who shines her light out into the world and serves others through her performing talents, also literally "serves" people every day at a family-oriented restaurant in midtown Toronto. From what others have told me, she shines particularly brightly at this, as well.
What happened to her recently could have, and probably does, happen all the time to servers in towns and cities around the globe. Her restaurant was offering a "buy one, get one free" entrée promotion to try to restore patrons' confidence after a health scare that had been publicly blown out of proportion. It was a busy Thursday night, and after serving what to her appeared to be a trustworthy family of four, she cheerfully left the billfold and check for them to pay when they were ready. No pressure and no sign of anything that in any way showed that they weren't 100-percent happy. She went off, and in her efficient and enthusiastic way, she continued serving her other customers, making sure everyone was equally happy and enjoying their dining experience. Not too long after this, she returned to this family's table and found that they had left the building, taking the billfold and check with them. Not only did they not leave a tip, but they did not even pay the bill! When she told me, I was shocked.
This family had already received two free entrées, and the bill was not high. In short, their actions showed a total lack of respect and gratitude for the restaurant, the food and their server. Because of restaurant policy, the server is responsible for the bill. Ouch! Her fellow servers rallied to support her; however, as we are all human, this understandably scarred her otherwise great day and night. It left both of us questioning how anyone could consciously behave in a premeditated way that so lacks integrity and illustrates an unflattering side of human nature: acting without gratitude.
Being who I am, I looked for a lesson in it, believing that there is always something to be learned in every situation by the people involved. Maybe the family was hungry and actually couldn't afford to pay for the meal. Maybe the husband thought the wife paid or vice versa. Maybe there was a misunderstanding, because English was not the family's first language. Trying to see the positive in it, I still find it difficult to understand why people forget to act from a place of gratitude and aren't able to express it openly and freely to others, especially those who serve us, all the time. Have we lost the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes and see what the view looks like from there? Is it really that difficult to consciously stay aware and display gratitude for service?
As I walked today, grateful for a glorious, almost spring-like day, I found myself wondering when and if we as a people will be able to demonstrate genuine compassion and gratitude to others, not just in times of crisis when we are called to rally together, but all the time. What someone does for a living is not who they are as a person, but what someone does to another person does indicate the kind of person they are. What kind of lessons are adults like this teaching their children? I don't have the definitive answers, but I believe we can all start by taking personal responsibility for how we choose to interact in the world. The law of karma tells us that what goes around always comes around, making it important to make gratitude a daily practice, both personally and by showing it to others. Conscious intention is one place to start.
I'd love to hear stories from other servers of how grateful or ungrateful behavior has impacted their lives. If the family who left without paying by some chance reads this, it is never too late to show up and make it right. I know my rose-coloured glass optimism keeps me somewhat naïve, but I honestly do believe that people are good, trustworthy and honourable, and I see expressions of gratitude all the time, everywhere I look, more often than not. Keep gratitude alive and well; it is really such a simple thing to practice.
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
--John F. Kennedy
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