I recently had the opportunity to practice one of my Hands Free strategies, which is called Take Time to Say It.
Making an effort to express appreciation for people in my life through note writing has always been one of my “Bright Spots.” Although my tendency is to write notes to people I already know, those who are already in “my circle” of friends and family.
Being Hands Free means stepping outside the boundaries of what one normally deems as “comfortable” to grasp what really matters. In this case, it meant sending something in the mail to someone I didn’t know. And the results were amazing.
A few days prior, my family and I had gone to a fairly new restaurant in the area. Everything was going perfectly until our entrees were brought out. I had asked that my fish tacos have no sauce on them. I was presented with some extra saucy fish tacos. Our waiter apologized profusely, although I assured him it was no big deal and would not mind waiting for my plain tacos.
About ten minutes later, here comes the new order. Two nice plain tacos……covered in sauce. To me, it was comical, and I was plenty full on chips and salsa. The poor waiter looked like he wanted to crawl under the table and join my youngest daughter, (who was now completely finished with her meal), playing with her Polly Pockets.
I cheerfully assured him that I was no longer hungry, and he did not need to bring me anything else. The manager quickly came out and apologized to me, (meanwhile, my family had abandoned me to the nearby yogurt shop), and graciously insisted that the restaurant “comp” our entire meal.
When I met up with my husband, (who was now pulling up the car with two tired girls in the backseat), he asked if I remembered to tip the waiter. Oh no. Never having been given a meal for free, I did not know that I still needed to tip the waiter. I felt terrible. It bugged me for several days. Until finally one morning, I decided to go Hands Free by letting go of the kitchen mess to send “Dan” his long over-do tip.
I wrote a little note to him explaining who I was (the lady who couldn’t get away from the saucy fish tacos…I’m sure he couldn’t forget me if he tried). And assured him that I had simply forgotten the tip and that neglecting to do so was not a reflection of his wonderful service. I placed it in the mailbox feeling a sense of relief, satisfaction, and of doing “what’s right.” That was that. Until one week later. Then I received this:
Here is what it said:
Dear Mrs. Stafford,
I want to thank you for your letter and the tip for your dinner at Chuy's. It really meant a lot to me that someone would take the time to go back and send a letter to someone they forgot to tip. I really appreciate your kindness and hope that others follow by your example.
I couldn’t believe it. He was amazed that I took the time to send a letter/tip and now I was even more amazed that he wrote back to thank me! The simple task that took a mere ten minutes to complete ended up being so much more than paying for a forgotten tip.
Through my gesture to Dan, I had restored his belief in the goodness and integrity of people. Through his gesture to me, he had confirmed that words of kindness and respect are invaluable, and I should take the time to say them (or write them) more often.
It would have been much easier, much more convenient, to simply forget about neglecting to tip my waiter. I am sure I could have said, “I will do it tomorrow,” until too much time had passed to do anything at all. And I am sure I could have justified my inaction by telling myself that it would probably not make any difference.
But I didn’t. I vividly remember the day I stood in the kitchen and told myself, “Do it now, while you are thinking about it.”
I remember looking at the half unloaded dishwasher and dirty dishes in the sink that beckoned me to complete what I had started. Yet, I knew if I went ahead and finished that task, the thought of writing to Dan would pass. And then it would be gone.
Going Hands Free. Letting go…to grasp what really matters.
I let go of a dirty dish and grasped the untarnished side of humanity.
Lord knows I am a Hands Free Work In Progress, but this time, yes, this time, I got it right.
Do you have a nagging thought of someone you need to thank or acknowledge? Instead of pushing it off, take time to do it now. It doesn’t have to be a page-long eloquently written piece…simply a sentence or two, explaining what’s on your heart. Grasping what matters. Isn’t that what life is all about?