Wisdom from the Trenches

101_1815She was a young girl of 16, working a summer job as a waitress in a small-town greasy spoon. It might have been her second night on the job, or perhaps it was her third–after all, she had only lasted 3 days. As boredom and indifference quickly set in, she had flung down her order pad and called it quits, her career ending before it had barely begun. Yet, despite her brief stint amongst the dirty dishes and the uneaten dinner rolls she discreetly transferred from customer’s plates back to the oven’s warming drawer (she had reasoned to herself that they were ‘still good’), a lifelong lesson had been learned that she carried in her tender heart for over 40 long years… a lesson taught by a young, kind-hearted, down-home cowboy who ‘just happened’ to be seated at one of her tables. He had wandered into the greasy spoon for a late night meal, and after she had set down that glass of cool water in front of him with it’s tiny, unidentifiable floaties in it, she struck a disinterested yet expectant pose; with tablet in hand, she clicked her ink pen, and surly demanded:   “Whadda ya want?  

He didn’t miss a beat…   He’d most likely come across a few folks like this before, it wasn’t his first rodeo. And in a slow, southern, country drawl, he wisely responded: “A sweet smile and a few kind words…”

A sweet smile and a few kind words!     “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”  Proverbs 16:24.

Of course, I had to have some fun with you in that first paragraph, as that 16-year-old was yours truly. I had planned on spending a summer in that small town, working at a job–which I did quit within 3 days! I’ve never forgotten the cowboy’s reply, and I admit, I’ve had plenty of fun re-telling the story. Nonetheless, those wise words have stayed with me–a reproof for an unprofessional, unfriendly, uncaring attitude.

As we get to know people, we find that you never know what someone may be going through on a daily basis. A loved one may have cancer, a child may be going down the wrong road, a job may have been lost, a relationship may be on the rocks. We never know what effect our words may have on someone. How difficult is it to make a kind comment or a few words of encouragement?  Not difficult at all. Perhaps think of the words you would like to hear, it could be just the ticket to make someone’s day. They may have been thinking of suicide, or feeling unappreciated, or struggling just to get through the next few hours. If we observe someone for a few moments or days, surely we can find at least one redeeming quality to admire.  We can be honest–we don’t have to fake it or come up with false words–no need to tickle ears and flatter with words that have no substance.

‘Pleasant words’… like the new, tender green leaves of a Weeping Willow tree lightly dipping into the waters of a secluded country pond; just brushing the surface, gentle ripples emanating from the movement of quiet, silent fish.   ‘Honeycomb’… golden, clear, sweet to the soul–not sour, nor harsh. ‘Healing’, strengthening, healthy, not harmful to the bones.

“A sweet smile and a few kinds words…”  Well, I didn’t smile too sweetly or broadly, as I would have revealed the orthodontic braces on my teeth, but I did chill out and change my attitude, and I know that if I were to ever waitress again, I’d be a much kinder soul. Thanks cowboy!


Top Photo: ‘Back Alley’  J.Richter 2013