Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Rich Enough To Know The Difference

Families choose different ways to spend their holidays. Our family has done everything from one extreme to the other; from the traditional family get-together to the desert camping trip. This year, Jim and I needed to find a new way to celebrate the holidays. Something that would appeal to the two of us as well as something that fit into our limited budget and resources.Some investigating on the internet provided me with a great alternative to staying home spending all day cooking for two.

I had gathered some information on an historic Bed & Breakfast Inn located in Julian, California, and invited some friends to accomppany us on a Thanksgiving get-away. Julian, an old mining town is located a short drive from our home in the next county. Julian is in apple country and has several old gold mines from the latter part of the gold rush. The population is small,comprising of families that have been in the same town, many in the same homes, for generations. The mining industry no longer exists, unless you consider the economic boost provided from  tours of the old mines. Julian is a woman-driven economy; primarily focused around the pie companies, diners, and crafting stores, while the men are typically farm hands or find employment miles away, off the mountain.

But much like other tourist towns, you don't always see the real picture of a town's demographics. One really only sees the little stores tucked in corners and renovated century-old homes. But during the holidays, when the spirits of mankind are often most evident, you can see the real heart of a town such as Julian.

While taking in the history of the town on a self-guided tour, we were approached by more than one resident inviting us to aThanksgiving meal at the the town hall. A free meal they explained, for those who were away from home on the holidays, or for those passing through, or for those who had no family to be with, or for those who had no home at all.

While we had some money set aside for holiday dinner, something made me want to go to this meal. Generally, I would pass. But, the energy of the community made me want to feel more connected, and what better way than to join a community feast!

As we entered the town hall, it was evident that there were people from all walks of life; locals, travelers, volunteers, homeless. After we signed the guest register, we were directed to a table that would seat our party of four. We were prepared to go get into the "soup line" to get our free meal, but were asked to remain seated because we were to be served.

All four of us were all capable in body and mind to get our own food, and we were more than happy to stand in a line and get our own. Yet these people wanted to serve us, all of us, with the happy heart of a volunteer.

Clif and Rachel served us with smiles on their faces. There may have been over 100 people at a time to be served, and through the ebb and flow of hungry faces, the volunteers never lost focus of their desire to serve all who walked through the doors.

We met some people, ate some food, shared some laughs and conversation, but more importantly we watched... and we listened. And we learned some valuable lessons that day. As we ate our food and thought, " this is too salty, this is not warmed enough, this is too dry, what! no diet coke?",  I watched the disheveled man across from me at the next table enjoy every bite of not only his meal, but whatever his neighbors were willing to share. Every time one of the volunteers served him, he smiled with sincere thanks and gratitude.

He didn't have a thing to complain about and he had a smile on his face as he ate that free lunch; inside and away from the chilly weather. Surrounded by laughter and activity. He was happy for that moment, knowing that once it was done he was to go back to the cold and what appeared to be his homeless situation.

Looking at him, his face, his eyes, I wondered what his story was. Were his current circumstances that of fate or a personal choice? Did he have family that wondered about him or was he all alone in this world? Fact is, many of us are only a paycheck or two away from living in the streets. We all have family and friends to assist, but what happens when turning to them isn't an option anymore? At what point do you cross that line?

As I watched this man, and others around him, we were joined at our table by 3 other couples. The men bantered about Thanksgiving football games while the ladies removed their coats and sat at our table and began small ctit-chat. My focus diverted to them as I began to pick up on their conversations. The lady directly across from me had a large gold medallion necklace and matching earrings. She reported that she had purchased them in Rome this past summer. The other ladies chimed in about travels abroad. A quick glance at all of them revealed that not one of the six were in need of a free meal. But, then again, neither was I.. So, who was I to pass judgment?

Their conversations continued; travel this, jewelry that. Jim and I continued our conversation with our friends. And then it happened...The women started complaining. "Where was their waitress? They had been sitting way too long, where was their food? They think "their girl" forgot about them."

I was speechlessm and so were my friends. We lowered our heads and just looked over our plates at each other and ate our food. It was an awkward situation, without doubt.

A moment or two passed as the women continued to complain when I chimed in and assured them that Clif or Rachel would be by soon and would be happy to serve them...it's just pretty busy, is all. Smiles all around, although I'm not sure they were genuine.

When Clif passed by, one of the ladies at our table got his attention and reported that, "no only had they been waiting a long time without food, but other people were getting their food before them and they had been here longer!"

Clif offered an apology as well as an offer to get them some dinner. His offering was met with disgusted sighs and murmurs about "whodid they have to talk to in order to get waited on around here."

As they continued to complain, I returned my attention to the man I had been watching. He was putting on his layers of clothing to return to the chilly outdoors. As he smiled and thanked the volunteers, I realized that he was far richer than the people at our table. He understood what it meant to be served, and he was grateful. The people at our table were expecting to be waited on; emotionally bankrupt to what was really going on in that dining hall.

There is a difference between being served by someone as opposed to being waited on by someone.One who serves enriches their lives as well as those they serve. One who waits on you does so out of self-motivation, generally for a paycheck or tips, not genuinely concerned about the end result for the individual at their table. Those expecting to be waited on generally don't concern themselves with who that person is providing them with what they desire.

This definitely provided me with an opportunity for an attitude check; a life lesson. I always want to make sure that I take the time to notice who is serving me, and how can I be of service to them. Perhaps a smile. Perhaps not only noticing their name, but saying it ~ "Thank you, Clif."   Perhaps sharing a laugh or a funny story.

I don't want to be waited on. I don't want to "expect" to be waited on.

I want to be served... and I want to serve.  I want to be as rich as that homeless man was this past Thanksgiving. He knew the difference between being served and being waited on.

I always want to be rich enough to know the difference, too ...

1 comment:

  1. Sometimes I wonder, what was the greater adventure? You and Jim raising four boys or four boys and Jim wondering what Momma was gonna do next.