July 28, 2011
I’d driven down to Los Angeles to interview
a well-known artist
, and afterwards had met friends in Culver City for dinner. I hadn’t reserved a room anywhere, and after saying good night, I ended up at a Motel 6 fifteen or twenty miles east on Highway 10. It was still hot outside, maybe 90 degrees. From the look of things, I was deep in gang territory. The young couple checking in ahead of me added to this impression. I'd seen them getting out of their low rider. His arms and neck were covered with tattoos. She had lots of piercings and heavy make up. I was nervous. I felt I'd landed deep in another world where I was vulnerable, and could be called to account for the crimes and injustices in our larger culture.
I watched as they went through the usual process of getting a room. Okay. I felt a little less nervous. My turn. I got a room and ended up having a good night’s sleep. In the morning, as I was carrying my bags to the car, I noticed a young man standing alone out in the middle of the parking lot. Seeing me heading for my car, he shouted, “Good morning!”
“Good morning,” I responded.
And then, continuing to look at me with a smile, he said, “Have a blessed day
His words were so unexpected, and so genuine, they passed into an unguarded place in me that simply lit up. His gesture was
a blessing, and could not have been more unexpected.
Getting into my car, and feeling lighter, I remembered the car needed gas. Glancing around, I noticed that right next to the motel there was a gas station. Great! I filled the tank. Okay. What about breakfast? Almost the moment that thought entered my mind, I spotted a restaurant across the street. Things were definitely lining up.
Walking in, I was led to a booth. It was a nice place—open, clean. A waitress came over, “Coffee?” Surprising how much one takes in so quickly. The way she wore her uniform, for instance. Impeccable. She was, I soon realized, an impeccable waitress. Her presence next to me at the booth left the space completely open. Nothing impinged. And yet, I was aware of her attention on me.
She handed me one of those over-sized, plastic-coated menus covered with photos and visual distractions and left. I sat there holding it in both hands looking for something simple, something not in a photograph. At the bottom of the page, I spotted a line of text: “Senior’s special”—one egg, two pancakes and bacon. $5.99. Right. That should do it.
It was hard to know all the sources of the state I found myself in as I sat there, at home inside myself – more awake, more open.
Now my waitress was back. I ordered the Senior Special.
“Don’t you want the “Fast Start”? she asked.
I hadn’t noticed that one.
She pointed to the menu—“See this one? Fast Start
I took a quick glance: $4.99, two
eggs, two pancakes and bacon.
“You get more, and save money,” she pointed out.
I took a quick look at her to see if there was some hidden agenda. No. I didn’t think so. The Fast Start was a better deal. Same thing, plus an extra egg and one dollar less
! Hmmm. Why not? I ordered the Fast Start.
As she walked away I watched her, a middle-aged Hispanic woman, and couldn’t help feeling that something unusual was going on. Absolutely everything was falling into place with no effort from me at all. I was even being gifted an extra dollar. It was almost as if I’d entered some zone of perfection.
As I sat in the booth waiting for my Fast Start to arrive, I was beginning to believe there was something mysterious going on. No, that’s not quite accurate. Actually, that moment in the parking lot when I opened myself to making eye contact with the stranger, when in that moment, smiling, he blessed me, in that moment
, something inside was came to life like a small songbird.
In that moment, I knew
something mysterious had happened.
I don’t mean to exaggerate. In the context of ordinary life, I could have passed over the whole thing and just called it a nice morning. But maybe we don’t look closely enough at things.
My waitress brought the food. Walking away, she stopped at a booth across from me where a younger man had been talking about different kinds of cell phones with an older man. I watched her. She did her job with a seemingly effortless discipline, but in no way shortchanged the customers. Not at all. One could say, she was a thorough professional. That’s one way to put it, but what I was seeing carried me beyond that into a world I didn’t know—but sensed—a world where one approached one’s work—like a warrior, perhaps.
The way of it, which I was watching from my plate of pancakes and eggs, was almost invisible. And what was letting me see like this?
As I ate my breakfast, at a certain point, I begin to think about the tip I would leave. Certainly, I’d add the saved dollar to my usual tip. But why not more? The thought filled me with a little charge of happiness. I’d leave a ten-dollar bill! What would that be? 60% or so.
Then, as I was finishing off the last bite of scrambled egg and already feeling the pleasure of my unplanned generosity, something else entered my mind. Maybe the ten dollars was too easy. Didn’t this morning call for something more? I’d been transformed, not only by the generosity of others, but by seeing into a world I hadn’t known; it was so much bigger than the one painted by my fears. In gratitude, I had to give back something that counted, something from myself. Something that cost me. In the invisible measure of things, anything less just wouldn't do.
Share Your Comments and Reflections on this Conversation:
On Aug 16, 2021 Elza wrote:That is the way to think and live. Thank you for putting it in these beautiful words
On Aug 15, 2021 Ruth Block wrote:...and the opposite of fear is love, and love opens to the limitless possibilities of life, a miracle in itself. Thank you again, Richard, for another inspiring vignette well told.
On Aug 15, 2021 Wendy Howell wrote:We think the experience is very similar to encounters reported in our monthly magazine Share International. There are many people who write in with encounters with extraordinary people who seem to know their problems and help, inspire and give joy to those met. www.share-international.org
If the author is willing to submit the story to the editor of our magazine, it would find many interested readers.
On Aug 14, 2021 Richard wrote:What a touching story! Seriously, I think the man in the parking lot was an angel. He touched you deeply and woke you up to the beauty in all of us - most often unseen. Your greatness is in SHARING your wonderful and inspiring experience. Just look at the comments of all the people you blessed by sharing this modern-day-miracle. Thank you! I think sharing things is the key to our loving future together.
On Aug 13, 2021 abbe rolnick wrote:I'm so pleased you moved away from the idea of monetizing the waitresses' kindness, which she offered from her heart. Aligning kindness moves us to create more. Fear became your friend, an opening to allow something different. The honesty of each moment begins with kindness-- sharing. Seeing oneself bare. Those that offer kindness see you. Even as I rest in fear, I pause... the gift will come...
On Aug 12, 2021 Janine Rayner wrote:Loved it! My husband went blind and hard of hearing in the latter part of his life.
I used to say that that was his message. We are blind!
On Aug 12, 2021 Neil wrote:A real cliff hanger, so what was it in you mind that was more meaningful than to 60% tip? Please do tell we are waiting with baited breath.
On Aug 12, 2021 Bec wrote:Absolutely love this - you so eloquently capture the magic of the everyday if we just take the time to be truly present and aware to all of the moments that make a morning. A lovely reminder of the power of mindfulness and gratitude in fostering soul warmin reverence for the magic of existence. Thanks for sharing this gift with us all!
On Aug 12, 2021 Lei Grace Bernola wrote:This is delightful. Thank you It has made my day ! X
On Aug 12, 2021 Helen C. Gennari wrote:The richness of a moment, of a morning, reflected in something as simple as paying attention.
Richard, you have so lovingly followed Mary Oliver's advice:
Tell about it.
On Aug 12, 2021 Sr Marilyn Lacey wrote:Richrd, I love the way you write -- and the way you live...
On Aug 12, 2021 Meg E Chrisler wrote:I believe that so many of us suffer from being disconnected to the world; most especially our fellow humans. This is such a lovely story about a simple morning that became exquisite upon the author's awareness. Thank you for this lovely story!
On Aug 12, 2021 Naomi wrote:I LOVE this! Thank You!
On Aug 12, 2021 Patrick Watters wrote:I suppose awareness is something gifted to me from childhood, but it has grown considerably as Iâ€™ve practiced a contemplative life in these â€œgoldenâ€ years. To sit and simply observe without thought or judgment enables us to truly see.
On Aug 12, 2021 Lori Lifto wrote:Thank you for this gift of a story, I will watch for my openings today.
On Aug 12, 2021 Kathleen wrote:A beautiful and brilliant story, inspiring kindness and awareness. Thank you for this excellent 'Fresh Start' for my day.
On Aug 12, 2021 Christine Grace wrote:Thank you so much for sharing this beauty-filled re-minder of how alive and interconnected everything is, if only we take a moment. Thank you angel/angle of Love and Light.
On Aug 12, 2021 Paula wrote:You realized that showing gratitude to the waitress monetarily was only one response. You wanted to give something of yourself that counted. Reading this, entering into your story that is helping me begin "my" morning. It is helping other readers during their day and I realize it is up to me too, the reader, to ask myself, what can I give back that counts, unique to myself? What can I give back to all the people in my life, strangers, waitresses, friends, passersby, who have blessed me with their presence? Maybe doing my own life work with the same professionalism as the waitress, maybe giving a blessing to a stranger, compelling kindly eye contact, maybe a phone call to a friend who might need human contact during covid, or any transforming idea we are inspired with, turned into action that carries love and respect. Your writing the story multiplies the blessings you received that morning. We the readers are blessed by the young man who blessed you. We the readers carry the message forward that there are good people, there is goodness, there is caring all around us.
On Aug 12, 2021 Kristin Pedemonti wrote:Richard, so lovely to read what you noticed as your eyes opened and thus your heart opened too to the magic all around us. The thousand seemingly small kindnesses and connections human to human. Always available to us, simply waiting for us to see! Hugs from my heart to yours.
I've got a story for you, I'll email it to you. â™¡
PS. This type of interaction happens in my life nearly every day. Perhaps not as often in this pandemic because I'm not out among people like I was in the before time. Though I remind myself it happens in our virtual world too.