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?
So I just discovered your blog and now I am going back and reading from the beginning… Today was our last day of school before summer break. We have had one of my son’s high school teachers who has stood out way above the rest. I took the time today (minutes before the end of the school day!) to send him an email expressing my appreciation and being specific about what I loved about him and how he has impacted my son’s lfe. He is a hard teacher and I imagine he may not receive praise from “A” focused parents often. He emailed me back within a few hours thanking me for my kind words but what he said next is what will stick with me, “It has been an honor to teach your son.” I am so glad I took several minutes to let this man know of the impact he has had – we easily could have slipped into summer routine and time could have passed. It feels so good to let people know how grateful you are to them!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Thank you, Angela! This gives me goosebumps! What a lovely gift to give a wonderful teacher and how inspiring that you were gifted with an unexpected word of praise in return. I love how kindness works … always managing to find a way back to the giver. Thank you for sharing. And by the way, I am so honored to know someone out there loves my messages enough to go back to the beginning! You have made my day!!!!
I love your blog! I love you! 🙂
I have been reading your blog for the last several months, and now I am reading it from the very beginning! 🙂
Also I wanted to tell you that your first book published in Russian language has a wonderful translation and is great! I see and already know how you write and in the book, that i bought, I see the same style just in Russian words. 🙂 Thank you for your books 🙂 (The 2nd book I have already read in English).
Rachel Stafford says
You have blessed me, Tatyana! THANK YOU
Angela is not the only one that is going back and reading from the beginning!
About 16 months ago I decided to give up Facebook for Lent. It was extremely difficult at first. My hands were “itching” to pick up the iPad or my phone to go on the “home” page and read about everyone else’s activities/thoughts etc. I perservered and as each day passed that I was not on a device wasting my time, I was beginning to see all of the little things I had been missing out on with my two beautiful children. After Easter was over, I reactivated my account only to feel guilty afterwards for doing so. I decided I would continue to stay off of it and changed my privacy and other settings so I would not be alerted to every comment made, and so friends that I wasn’t close to, could no longer see pictures etc of my private life. After I did that, I decided I would just go ahead and remove all of the friends that I never talked to since I “friended” them! We weren’t really all that close. I got rid of 187 “friends” and felt liberated! I stayed off of Facebook.
Recently I had a foot surgery I had put off for a few years and I am “stuck” at home unable to drive, as my right lower leg is in a cast and I am non-weight bearing for six weeks. Somehow I was slowly pulled back in to Facebook, as I didn’t have much to do those first few days except lie in bed taking pain meds and try to get past the worst part of the early recovery. (but not too bad, just reading posts here and there.)
This past weekend, we went down to the lake and I took two pictures and posted them with a status update, one of my foot in a cast poolside, and one of my kids with the lake in the background. I felt a little weird after I had done these two different posts in the two days we were there. I felt like I had taken a step backwards by doing that….because getting off of Facebook last year made a world of difference in my life!
In the two days at the lake, I responded to a friends question of which orthodontist in our area would we recommend for her children. After I posted my recommendation, I scrolled up to the top of her page and saw a link to “Handsfreemama”! I went to your website and WOW, WOW, WOW. I reposted the link to my page and wrote, “If you read this, you will see why I have been off of Facebook for all of this time, and now I am going off again! Please read it and share with all of your friends!”
I have been teary-eyed all morning, reading your beginning posts with awe and feel like “I can do this!” I also feel ashamed when I read about other people you have observed because I was one of those people. I talk on the phone a lot especially when driving even though I have thought about that fact that my children will be driving in 3 1/2 and 6 years, and have had me as their bad example. Now I am rejuvenated and purposeful!
My daughter just woke up (We’ve all been sleeping in a lot since I’m off of work) and we are going to make pancakes together!
I am going to make good use of the remainder of my 6 weeks off, to enjoy my children and this precious summer I have with them. The horrible paycheck from short term disability will be worth the wonderful time I have been blessed to spend with them for the first summer since they were 4 and 6 when I went back to work full-time.
Thank you soooooo much!
Grateful to have found you, in Missouri!
Rachel Macy Stafford says
Welcome, my friend. You certainly made my day with your beautiful, honest, open, and heartfelt comment. I am honored that you feel my message came into your life at the right moment and feel it is worthy enough to go back to the beginning to read. I look forward to you getting a little farther along in my posts, as I began to touch on the power of self-forgiveness a bit later in my journey. I began looking ahead, rather than back at my mistakes and that was healing for me.
What I most love about living “Hands Free” is that it is not about yesterday … it is about today, and the critical choices I make today. I hope that your “I can do this” will soon drown out the voice of shame and regret. It took awhile for me to forgive myself for all that I had missed, but it was freeing when I did. If you want to go straight to the matter of self forgiveness, check out:
Hope for the Imperfect Parent http://www.handsfreemama.com/2012/04/04/hope-for-the-imperfect-parent/
The Hero Inside You http://www.handsfreemama.com/2012/03/12/the-hero-inside-you/
Please keep me post on your journey! I am grateful you took the time to let me know you are here.