Just yesterday I experienced one of the most touching and beautiful moments thus far in my nearly 2.5 decades of living, and it was from a gesture so small.
To preface and give context, I have been absolutely burnt out the last few weeks. I usually make a pact with myself to post five social media posts a week, keep all of my projects in-check, and be timely with my email responses to people regarding work. But I haven't had energy or motivation for any of it. Part of it could be because I completed the Spring 2018 Body Mind Spirit Expo--which is equally as exhausting as it is wonderful--but the other part is exhaustion regarding the nature of my work.
Since I started a new waitressing job a few weeks ago to help pay my bills, various things I have witnessed of the general nature of restaurant function have certainly added to my sadness. Let me first say that I am incredibly grateful for this job, and I work with and for some of the nicest, most humble people I have ever met. I get treated and paid well by my employers, which is something I have not experienced in the workforce, and I could not be more grateful for that. I am also grateful to be on the front lines with the people and have the experiences I do, as they help reflect to me new perspectives and where the people generally are mentally, emotionally, morally, etc. Keep in mind that the issues I talk about do not really reflect this specific restaurant and especially not the wonderful people who work it alongside me, but rather the larger issues that are currently a part of American restaurant culture.
One of the biggest things that makes me cringe is watching the daily waste grow and grow, whether it be food, drinks, napkins, plastic bags, plastic ware, and styrofoam to-go containers. I do what I can to mitigate the waste to the best of my ability, such as not put napkins/plastic silverware in to-go orders unless customers ask, take home whatever plastic film and single-stream recycling I can (although recycling is not an end-all answer, and the issues are wonderfully laid out in this blog), only give plastic straws to those who request it, etc. In the short time since I have started working at this place, I have already created a name for the people who irritatedly ask for plastic straws in a way that gives me the impression that I am denying them a most obvious and necessary convenience. Not-so-creatively, the name I give those people is the, "straw people." And man, do they get on my nerves like no other.
Regardless, I am much more understanding when people say, "Can I please have a straw?" (especially for elderly or for children who have a harder time with the glass) versus, "Umm, excuse me, but where are our straws??" The ones who are rude about it are what I call the "straw people." Because again, it's not just that they are asking for such a non-necessary object that harms the environment, it's that they are having such a reaction over something so small. I would also expect that Boulder would be better with generally more respectful and eco-conscious people, and maybe it is, but I still see this behavior every day I'm at the restaurant.
But, no. That is not how our survival works. In fact, it's the opposite. If we want to continue to thrive on this planet, we need to make some serious cultural, societal, political, and economic changes. We need to eliminate the consumeristic and privileged nature of our way of living that is killing the life on our planet.
ANNNNyways, back to the story--I went to work yesterday and was feeling so low regarding the state of the world. I even woke up and was thinking about a most harrowing video I saw months ago of a horribly terrified and confused baby elephant standing next to its not-so-recently dead mother who was poached. If that's not a bad mental space to start your day, with I'm not sure what is. So I thought, "You better not give me any "straw people" today, Universe. Not now." Sure enough, I am helping a boisterous table of five business workers joining us for the lunch rush that I had a feeling would be challenging--my intuition was correct.
Two kids maybe around age 8-10 were walking on the path from behind me, and the boy right away said, "That's a really good thing that you're doing." And I said, "Aww, thank you so much! It's kind of fun actually, and a great workout!" (Which it was--my lower back is now stronger for it ;) ) As I was speaking, the boy immediately said, "Here," and picked a little grape hyacinth flower from the ground and held it out to me. My initial thought was, "Oh, no need to desecrate the plant-life for me!" but I instead replied with, "Oh my goodness, what a sweetheart you are!! Thank you for your kindness!" As he walked away, I continued to pick up trash, and tears began to well in my eyes as the impact of his gesture hit me.
I believe everything happens for a reason, and this was most certainly a simple and humble yet deeply meaningful and loving gesture from that young boy as well as the universe that has become a huge source of encouragement for me. Here, I'm feeling so disappointed by society and various people in it that are so aggresively inbiting such immensely needed change, and I'm feeling powerless to stop it. We're supposed to be leaders for our younger generations, yet I'm questioning my own work regarding teaching empathy to children and losing motivation because I'm not sure it's enough.
Yet my small act of trash collecting yielded such a stunning repsonse from a child. Whether he has wonderful parents, educators, etc. that teach him how to be a wonderfully caring human or not, he was a symbol to me that there is hope. In that moment, he showed me that I don't need to teach empathy, I can simply be present to foster it because it is already present within our beautiful children. All we need to do is show them the way, share the truth of our natural world, and they will continue to lead with their hearts.
While I have little doubt that I am likely to continue my inner emotional battle from feeling the pain and cries of the natural world, I will do my best to remember moments like these and hold the faith; thank you from the bottom of my heart, sweet boy, for being such a bright light among the darkness.