I worked at a restaurant for a little bit during my sophomore year of college. It’s a nice dainty burger place right by the capitol in Madison, WI, where I would serve and host whenever I could. I remember it was a Wednesday, I was making literally no money, and soaking in the boredom of folding napkins and waiting for a table to come in.
I felt lucky when an older woman showed up for two, she said that she was waiting on her friend who worked at the capitol. She sat alone for a little bit until I approached her and asked what I could grab her. She laughed and said, “I just hope it’s 2:30 on Wednesday,” referring to when her friend and she had scheduled to meet up for lunch. I laughed it off with her, but my heart sank for her at the thought of her anxiously sitting around at a random restaurant alone waiting for a friend that wasn’t showing up.
I ordered her my favorite cocktail on the menu from me, and she got herself sweet potato fries. Her friend never showed, so she gave herself a time limit as to when she would stop waiting for her.
Every time I stopped by to check on her and see how she was doing, we would get lost in conversations about little things like tattoos and sunsets. At this point, I had gotten a couple more tables to take care of and was the only server, so I told her I would be back to sit with her and show her some photos of my favorite sunsets when I had a couple of minutes.
When my free time came, I sat myself across from her in a little booth. We rambled on about what tattoos I wanted to get and how my dad would probably want to disown me, just like hers did at first when she got all of hers. I showed her photos of the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen in my life. The pinks, blues, and oranges of the sky created new colors with each other that I didn’t know could exist.
She sat in awe, we sat in awe. I told her I thought it was a beautiful thing that we could be brought so close together by just a picture of the sky. Her smile was ethereal and contagious. This moment felt so real to me, and it began with my choice to make this woman feel seen. Little did I know, in making this lady feel seen, I myself would also feel seen. I felt validated by her happiness, it wrapped its arms tightly around my soul, tighter than the physical hug she gave me with her warm open arms before she left the restaurant.
My boss told me that what I had done was “super cool,” and I felt cool. I felt empowered to do it again, to help more people feel seen, all the time. This moment occurred because of kindness. I had the choice to show up for this woman, and by doing this I also showed up for myself and showed myself how powerful I am and my ability to impact others. What a beautiful moment.
Love makes light and we absolutely rise by lifting others. I welcome these moments of courage with open arms as I enter the new school year. I vow to be present and inclusive with everyone around me, I want more moments like these, and I can and will create them by continuing to choose now to be kind.