I didn’t learn how to behave from my parents. Well, not directly anyway. When people ask me when my parents opened their restaurant, I tell them my age. I was a “surprise,” so that may explain the timing. I have been immersed in the restaurant my entire life, engrossed in it, and it has had its perks and downfalls, but what continues to have the most lasting impact on me are the interactions I have had with thousands of customers. Each and every one of them has unintentionally taught me a lesson, lessons more valuable than any other experiences I've had.
A few years ago two men sat in a section of the restaurant I wasn’t waiting on. I couldn’t help but observe the gentle, kind manner in which they approached life. It didn’t matter what they talked about. They never frowned. Their eyes lit up with sincere excitement, showing that this was something they were not faking. I was watching pure, genuine happiness and it had a profound impact on me.
I was excited when they returned a few nights later and sat in my section.
A year later, I was serving on a busy August day. The restaurant buzzed with its usual chaos, a typical night, until the two gentlemen came back. They had stumbled back into the little pub they had had dinner in exactly a year ago. They ate dinner and exuded every quality I remembered. They paid, left, and came back the next two nights. They came back the next two years.
This past summer I waited, knowing that in late August they would come back. As summer wound down I walked to work and wondered if it was the day that they’d show up. That summer, they never did, and I noticed.
I’ve encountered so many different names and faces, from Congressmen to Olympians to farmers. People of all backgrounds come to my parents’ restaurant, but, naturally, not all of our customers stand out. The ones who do, though, aren’t necessarily the ones with the most remarkable accomplishments , but instead rather those who are genuinely happy and kind. These people do such simple things. They make eye contact and smile when they thank me. They are engaged, they are interested. They aren’t dismissive. They don’t show hostility if something goes wrong. They are the ones I remember year after year. They stay with me, long after they have paid and left.
They are the ones I want to come back.
My parents did not teach me explicitly how to behave. Each and every customer that has walked into the restaurant has taught me that the simplicity of being nice is so complex. It adds an unmatchable element to a person’s personality. As I reflect on the interactions I have, whether it be with a customer, a teacher, a stranger or my own grandfather - I ask - How am I behaving? Am I the type of customer that I would want to come back? Would I be missed if I didn't?
Am I making all the great teachers who have walked through the door of my parents little pub proud?”