How a Complete Stranger put my Life into Perspective
It all happened at a little place called the Flying Saucer in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.
I recently took a trip to Arizona to visit some family before the holidays. It was a quick, fun weekend full of mani/pedis, martinis, and late night Dateline binges. Although it only lasted a couple days, I felt pampered and ready to come home. I was traveling with my mom and my sister, and our connecting flight both to and from Phoenix was in Dallas, Texas.
If you've ever connected in Dallas/Fort Worth, you know just how incredible the airport is. It resembles an actual shopping mall, so we had plenty to keep us busy during our three-hour layover. After shopping around, we decided to grab some food before boarding our next flight home. Initially we stopped at a small sandwich shop, but by some twist of fate we ended up changing our mind and heading closer to our gate to find a spot to eat.
We decided on a super neat restaurant and bar called the Flying Saucer. It had a balcony that overlooked the airport and all the football games were on, so we walked in. Again, by what I can only assume is fate, we ended up going upstairs to eat. My younger sister insisted she wanted to eat on the top floor because it was cooler looking. We know younger siblings always get their way.
The top floor of the Flying Saucer was empty besides a lone bartender. Her name was Emily and she was a bright light in a bare room. She was solely in charge of the bar and the surrounding tables. Emily walked over, smiled, took our orders and even gave us her top recommendations. I couldn't decide between two entrees, so Emily said she'd surprise me. To say she was on top of her game would be an understatement. She was an incredible waitress and her positive attitude didn't seem fake or phony. I actually told my mom, "I could see myself being friends with her." She just had a good energy...a good vibe.
But even through Emily's positive attitude and attentiveness, something inside of me told me she was hurting. Don't misunderstand - in no way did she act sad or helpless. But, I couldn't shake the feelings that she needed blessed. It might sound silly, but it's like I could hear a higher power telling me she was hurting and she needed uplifting. Now, I'm not a super religious person, but I do believe some things happen in your life that need a reaction. This was one of those things.
I turned to my mom, who is more financially blessed than most people I know, and I told her we needed to help this girl. She looked at me confused. I explained that I felt compelled to give her a large tip. Not only did Emily deserve it because she was an excellent waitress, but she also needed it and I could tell. My mom didn't put up a fight and when the bill came, she explained to Emily that she would leave her tip in cash. I've always heard that tips on credit cards aren't as good as cash tips, so I've always tried to leave cash.
When Emily came back with my to-go box, my mom handed her a $100 bill. Our total bill was around $120, so Emily was in total shock when she realized what was in her hand. After thanking us over and over, Emily busted into tears. Immediately we all began tearing up, but nothing prepared us for what Emily was about to say next.
While choking back a cracking voice, Emily said, "You don't know how much this means to me. You don't know what I've been through this last month. I'm sorry I'm so emotional, I've just been through a lot. My fiance just died, and it's been really hard for me lately."
Just like that, my entire world shifted into perspective. Here this girl was going about her routine, running tables and suggesting the best mixed drinks, all while her entire life was falling apart. What other choice did she have? Life has to go on. Most people don't have the luxury of taking sick days or time off to grieve or piece themselves back together. Some people, like Emily, are forced to put on a smile and be the best version of themselves they can be despite hurting so badly.
I'll reiterate - Emily in no way ever acted like something was wrong. It was genuinely a gut feeling I had that I can't explain. But Emily changed my life that day. You truly never know what someone is going through. Even with the bravest face, Emily was struggling. I'm sure during her shift she had been shorted on a tip or nagged at by an unhappy customer, and none of those people were aware of how badly she needed kindness.
I guess what I am trying to say is count your blessings. Someone always has it worse. Treat everyone kindly and with respect. Just how lucky you really are can become apparent at any time. For some people, they're always aware...and I envy those people. For others, like me, it hits you in the gut in the middle of an airport bar. I'm really glad I met Emily that day and I hope we stick with her the way she will stick with me.