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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Giving It Up

Trent and I went to our favorite Chinese restaurant for lunch the other day. I will freely admit that the dish I chose is not traditionally Chinese, but I like it a great deal. And in my own defense, I am the only non-Chinese person I know that has had the owner of said restaurant give her chicken feet, and actually had the guts to try them. The dish I often eat is full of vegetables and delicious chicken. I know that if I had the self-discipline to sharpen my knife skills (see what I did there?) and spend a bit more time cutting and chopping and such, I could prepare something like this in my own kitchen. If I did that, though, I'd miss the occasional treat of going to this restaurant and being treated wonderfully, eating delicious food, and feeding the giant koi swimming in the entry area. 

As our server brought us our soup and placed a dish of deep-fried wide noodles on the table, something I am sure is done because of American tastes and traditions, I was transported to the memory of a dinner in another Chinese restaurant. A friend had taken me out to dinner for my birthday, and we ordered one of those specials that included soup and egg rolls and such. While we were eating our soup, a young couple came in and were seated a few tables away. 

I'll never know whether it was because of youth or experience, but the young lady seemed determined to make certain that she was treated with the best of service and respect that the restaurant had to offer. Actually, that really doesn't describe the vibe that I received from her, even though she was across the room. It was almost as if she had decided before entering the restaurant that she would not be treated as well as the other diners, so she was looking for things to prove that this was the case. When she found these proofs of poor treatment, she was going to triumph by forcing the staff to treat her as well as they did everyone else.

As we sat eating our soup, I noticed that the young woman kept looking over at us. She said something to her date and gestured over to our table. She was obviously upset and had an angry, resigned look on her face that said that she knew she was being mistreated, and she was not going to put up with it. Furthermore, she was going to make sure that the server knew that she wouldn't. When he came to her table, I heard her say loudly, "Why do those people have chips and dip, and we don't?" The server looked over to our table, a bit confused because technically there aren't any chips and dip on the menu. When he realized what she was asking about, he politely told her that we had the fried noodles because it was included in what we had ordered, but that what she and her companion had ordered didn't include them.

The young lady was undeterred. If someone else was having chips and dip, by golly she was going to have them too, no matter what lies the waiter told her. She raised a fuss, and to keep the dinner peaceful, the noodles and plum sauce and hot mustard were delivered to her table. Her expression was one of supreme satisfaction at having delivered a blow to anyone who might think that she didn't deserve the noodles just as much as, or more than, anyone else.

Now, the whole scene, as well as my memories of it, passed far more quickly than it just took me to write about it, but the memory of how she became so angry and offended has obviously found its little niche in my memories. It started me thinking about how we as humans sometimes seem to look for things to be upset about. How different would her evening have been if she chose to look at the situation entirely differently? How much more would she have enjoyed the meal if she had glanced over and become intrigued by what was on our table rather than becoming angry? What if she said, "That looks interesting, is there any way we could get some of that before our dinner comes to the table?" At that point, there could have been a polite exchange resulting in the couple having their own plate of noodles and dish of sauce. No ill will would have been experienced and the memory of the dinner would have been one of finding something that she liked to nibble on before her meal, rather than a memory along the lines of "that restaurant where they treated me like I wasn't good enough to eat there."

This made me think of some things related to the season of the year in which we find ourselves. Many Christian religions are currently observing Lent. This period of roughly six weeks commemorates the Biblical account of Jesus wandering for forty days and nights before beginning his religious ministry. The story is that He endured hunger and thirst, so oftentimes Christians use this time leading up to Easter to honor His sacrifices by making some of their own. Growing up, we used to find something we really liked to "give up for Lent." This was often something like candy or chocolate or ice cream. For adults, it might mean trying to give up something that they considered a bad habit, like smoking or cursing, for example. Naturally, as soon as Easter arrived, all of those good intentions flew right out the window.

I started to wonder what it would be like if we all thought of something that we could give up. Not necessarily for religious reasons, mind you, but just because it would be a good thing to do. What if we gave up looking for the negative in our lives and tried to look at things more positively? What if we called customer service at our bank or pharmacy or cable provider and began the call with a positive attitude? What if we began assuming the best about others instead of expecting the worst? How about treating others with the courtesy and kindness that we hope that we will receive? Maybe we spend entirely too much time worrying that the other person has more than we have or is being treated better than we are. Maybe we also assume that a person in a certain job is in their field because they aren't smart enough or good enough to work somewhere better. Maybe, just maybe, they are in that position because they are really dedicated to trying to improve the lives of others. I don't know about you, but a smile and a kind word have proven again and again to be the best medicine I could possibly receive. Maybe there is a lot to be said for finding something that doesn't improve our lives and like old, worn-out underwear, giving it up. Maybe.


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