October 1st was my birthday, and I saw it as a beginning for many things.
That day marked the beginning of a new month; the first real glimpse of fall; the start of Breast Cancer Awareness Month; the start of National Domestic Violence Month; a new chapter in my husband’s career as the previous day was his last with his former employer; and the first day of the last year of my 30’s, which I like to call The Decade of Discovery.
I had a wonderful day with my husband and children and was showered with love, affection, gifts, cards, phone calls, and special birthday messages.
That night, my husband took me out to one of our favorite restaurants. After being seated, we were greeted by our server for the evening, Tiffany.
Into the meal, we noticed that we had seen many polite and friendly faces, but had not seen Tiffany since she initially brought our waters and took our order. Human nature, which is laced in imperfection, reared it’s ugly head, and we found ourselves questioning her absence with a judgemental and negative undertone, despite our lovely dining experience.
As our meal, conversation, and laughter continued, Tiffany resurfaced, approached our table and offered a sincere apology for her “brief hiatus.”
Though she attempted to seem lighthearted, she was visibly shaken. The mascara stains, that only another woman would notice, under her beautifully exotic, almond-shaped eyes were proof positive that she had been crying.
My heart immediately went out to her.
It no longer mattered that we had been taken care of by others. In fact, it should have never mattered. To have even brought up the fact that she had vanished, despite the fact that our meal was wonderful, was selfish and pretentious. Was it a huge deal to us? No, it was not. But we discussed it in conversation with an air of entitlement. And albeit brief, it was still inconsiderate and presumptious.
I asked her what was wrong, and as gracefully as she could, she tried to explain. It was unclear what had rattled her so deeply. But what was clear, was that she needed to know that someone was on her side. So, I did what any caring woman would have done…I kicked my husband out of his seat, pulled her down next to me, and through a hug and a kiss on the cheek, shared with her all the love that I had received that day.
She opened up a bit more and, with a broken spirit and tear-stained cheeks, revealed that she had been upset by someone in the workplace. She felt the need to assure me that she doesn’t normally get so emotional over work-related matters and that this time it just really got to her. But my feeling is that if she has been placed in this situation on more than one occasion, then is she not entitled to feel? Is she not allowed a moment to lick her wounds? She is a living, breathing being, not a machine.
Some might say that she may have been in the wrong where her job was concerned…that she brought it on herself…maybe that she is a terrible employee. For me, those details were insignificant.
All that mattered was the shattered, insecure, distressed young lady before me. She needed to be nurtured. She needed a safe place…a place of protection. Protection from what was not my concern. And though our paths may never cross again and I will never know what happened to cause her such sadness, my only concern was to be the keeper for whom she longed.
My point here is this…We don’t know what may be going on in someone else’s world and how that situation may spill over into other areas of their lives. We don’t know their pain, their loss, their sorrow, or their fears.
And the truth is, we don’t need to know these things: we just need to know that they exist.
If we practice patience, empathy, understanding, and kindness; then we will be able to hold our heads high, look into the mirror and say…
I am My Sister’s Keeper, and That’s All I Need to Know!