“Politeness is the flower of humanity.” – Joseph Joubert
“In the Spirit which draws us into honest engagement with one another, including those who may be very different from us in various ways, God calls us to wake up and learn how to love and respect one another, period.”–Carter Heyward
There is a woman with whom I work. Her genuine smile rarely ceases. Even when she is expressing disagreement, frustration, and anger, she is able to articulate it in a way that is both respectful and without a hint of anger in her voice. Whenever I am feeling particularly moody, I chastisingly ask myself why I can’t be more like her.
While I like to think of myself as an overall kind and polite person, I fully recognize I have a long way to go in the thoughtfulness department. Perhaps, that is one of my drivers for writing regularly–my own quest for greater understanding and personal growth. One thing I know for certain, on those days when I feel less than my best self–I see my co-worker’s smile, and I feel inspired to dig a little deeper to shake off whatever annoyance or struggle upon which I have focused. And, perhaps, that is the key: focus.
There is an old saying that states, that which we focus upon we become. Thus, maybe I need to ask myself on those days, where is my focus, and what can I change? How can I begin to cultivate more inner joy like my co-worker seems to possess? As fate would have it, the Universe kindly provided me with a lesson.
John, my husband, suggested that we take advantage of an upcoming three day weekend and head out of town for a couple of nights. Sometimes just a change of scenery can reset and rejuvenate our spirits. Besides, John knows me all too well, when I am home, I typically focus on work. Therefore, my only request, upon his suggestion was that we not travel too far in order to return home with enough time for me to–yes, you guessed it– get caught up on my weekly weekend chores, so I didn’t have to start the next week feeling frantic and rushed.
After a bit of price comparisons on various travel sites, we ultimately settled on returning to Charleston,WV and the Four Points Hotel. We have personally found the staff at this hotel to be exceptionally friendly and helpful. Furthermore, we love the location along the Kanawha River within walking distance to the downtown Charleston Historic District.
Due to an extreme drop in temperatures, we decided to remain within the hotel grounds for dinner that evening. While the hotel does have its own restaurant, it also has another eatery on the opposite side, Recovery Sports Grille. Many of the hotel staff members had recommended this spot on previous trips, but we had never before tried it. Therefore, with temperatures hovering in the teens, we gladly walked the short distance to the restaurant, using it as an opportunity to view the beautiful local artwork and photographs displayed along the warm interior route.
Once seated in Recovery, we met Britney Stamper, our waitress/bartender, for the evening. John and I learned years ago that sitting at the bar often renders the best service, plus it typically gives us insight into the areas in which we are visiting. While we didn’t, per se, gain additional insight into the Charleston area, we did learn a great deal about Charlotte, NC, an area in which Britney had lived for several years with her family. By the end of the evening, we gained a greater awareness of another town we now plan to visit, ate fantastic food, and thoroughly enjoyed connecting, if only for a couple of hours, with another human whose varied life experiences expanded and enhanced our own.
Throughout the rest of the weekend, we were able to meet other people from all walks of life. For example, while browsing in the Historic District, I wandered into The Consignment Shop. While I had discovered this store on a previous visit, I had not met the owner. However, on this visit I was able to meet her. We shared a lovely conversation through the process of checking out, bonding over aging, being a woman, and other life experiences. I exited the shop smiling at the sense of connection.
Later that weekend, John and I met two engaging young people at Pies and Pints, a favorite dining establishment. While dining there, we could not help but find ourselves drawn into their conversation as one employee celebrated and congratulated the other’s acceptance into nursing school. Again, their short life experiences were certainly different from ours, but that did not hinder us in our conversations as we were able to find common ground.
Additionally, during breakfast, both mornings, we learned about Bruce, who may (or may not) be the morning manager of the hotel restaurant. (We are uncertain of his exact title.) What John and I do know is that Bruce has been part of the Four Points staff during each of our visits, and he is the friendly face with whom we chat during our late morning meals. It is easy to talk with Bruce, and it is clear from our conversations that he is kind, thoughtful, and devoted to his girlfriend and family.
As we said our good-byes to Bruce, he confessed that he usually doesn’t talk much to his customers, “But, I really do like talking to you guys,” he added with a crooked smile, and I found myself smiling in return.
His comment remained with me throughout that day, and it later occured to me the lesson within his comment. Perhaps, inner joy comes when we focus on others. Reflecting on my co-worker, she possesses a strong focus on others’ needs as well as a genuine and sincere curiosity. I began to realize that I had spent so much time trying to measure up to what I perceived was “wrong” with me and “right” with her, that I had forgotten she has also talked privately about her own inner battles and demons. However, in spite of any inward struggles she may be experiencing, when she comes to school, her light is on, open, and ready to engage, much in the same way John and I were engaging during our weekend away. Hmm . . .
In the final assessment, I fully recognize I still have many shortcomings, and there remain numerous areas in my life in which I still need to improve. That recognition, in and of itself, may not be a bad thing. Perhaps, if I thought I had “arrived,” or had no more ways to improve, maybe that would be a bigger problem. Instead, I will humbly accept that I have more inner work to do, need to focus on others’ needs more, and must continue to remain open to the lessons and sources of inspiration Divine Providence keeps providing me.
“Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson