Shortly before my mom’s 30th birthday, my father left her with two young girls under the age of four. He took the shared car, emptied their meager bank account and never looked back—ever. My mother, who only days before had been a homemaker, went to work as a waitress in a diner in order to provide for her children. She spent the next 30 years waiting tables and struggling to make ends meet.
My mom’s career as a waitress taught me more about life than all my years in school. I learned that sometimes you do what you have to because you have no other choice. I learned that a mother’s desire to provide for her children and ensure they have what they need is nothing short of fierce. I learned that even when you find yourself in a situation that leaves you bone tired, mentally exhausted, and smelling like cold French fries, you can still manage to find bright spots that get you through the day with a positive attitude intact.
Above all else, I learned that how you treat people you encounter in the course of your day could be the difference between them having a great day—or a lousy one.
My favorite stories were always ones where some stranger made my mom feel noticed and appreciated. It might be because they thanked her for always keeping their cup of coffee full; smiled and inquired about her day, or left her a tip that was more than “decent.” These small gestures made her feel she mattered and I can guarantee she couldn’t wait to go above and beyond the next time they sat at one of her tables. Contrast that with the jerk who yelled at her because he ordered wrong or the family who told her she wasn’t moving fast enough or the lady who complained the prices on the menu were too high and left her a quarter on the table. No surprise, these inconsiderate people crushed her spirit. But she always got back up.
Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday. In honor of her and all the other people who may be bit players in the course of your day—the cashier at the supermarket, the dry cleaning guy, the security guard you pass on your way in to work—please, be kind and let them know they matter. Because they do. They really, really do.
Happy Birthday Mom! I love you!