When You Least Expect It … You’re The Star Today!

mama-to-mama111This past weekend I was sitting outside at a cafe overlooking the Androscoggin River in Maine, with my husband and two of my kids.

The restaurant was packed with families and couples out enjoying a sumptuous brunch that included everything from made-to-order omeletes to bowls of fresh fruits and baskets filled with warm blueberry muffins. The waiters had their hands full trying to keep up with the steady flow of people pouring in and out, trying to pack in a little more fun on one of the last days of the summer season.

The group at the table next to us finished their meal and they all trooped out with the exception of one older guy who remained seated, studying the bill. He looked like a Maine Sea Captain straight out of central casting with his scraggly grey beard, pipe, and captain’s hat. Being the intrepid people watcher that I am, I was kind of watching him out of the corner of my eye wondering what he might be up to. He sat there patiently and finally caught the eye of the waitress, who wandered over to see what was up.

“You seem to have forgotten to add my order to the bill. I guess I could have just walked out but I know that you probably would have gotten in trouble and I didn’t want to stiff the house. So if you just add it on, I’ll pay you and get out of here.” The waitress was a little flustered, embarrased I think, because she had made the mistake but quickly walked off to fix it.

I saw that my kids had overheard the conversation too, since our tables were practically touching. I caught my son’s eye and kind of smiled and nodded my head in approval. He had clearly noticed this interchange and it was one of those things that as a parent you know is going straight into your child’s head and influencing how he sees the world. A little thing, no doubt, but one that actually demonstrates to a kid, in real time, how to treat people and operate in the world. A real life lesson, free of charge, included with the brunch. Cool.

So then I had to do something myself. I got up and went over to this man and touched him on the arm and as he looked up at me I whispered, “Thank you so much for your honesty. It was such a great example for my kids,” and gave him my biggest smile. He eyed me a little suspiciously at first but then broke into a huge grin of his own and said, “Oh well, what else could I do? I didn’t want them to have any trouble because of me.”

Then he got up and walked out, looking like he felt pretty good. It sure made my day and reminded me once again that despite all the headlines shouting that the world is going to hell in a handbasket there are, in fact, lots of great people out there quietly going about their business, teaching our kids how to be kind and honest without even realizing it.

It also brought home to me once again, that like it or not, we are all role models and never know when some future grown-up might be quietly watching or listening.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.


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One response to “When You Least Expect It … You’re The Star Today!”

  1. Allison

    Very touching. Thanks for the story and reminder :)

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