I worked at Jeff's Diner as a waiter for about 6 months when I was 16, and I can tell you, its hard being a waiter. Its darn hard. Its probably harder than being a paint salesmen, but its not as hard as being a youth director. But in any case, its hard. You might be asking, oh Henry, whats so hard about being a waiter? The answer is that when you are a waiter, you have to deal with hungry people, and when people are hungry, they aint so rationale. They just want to eat. And when I worked at Jeff's Diner, a kosher restaurant, people REALLY wanted to eat, because they were fellow Jews, who really enjoy eating. And many times, these people bring in their elderly parents and grandparents and great grandparents, which becomes very difficult, because if you put the tomato on the wrong part of the sandwich, grandma is not so happy with you, and she lets you know it. In short, working in a kosher restaurant is one of the hardest things to do, because not only are you dealing with hungry people, but you are dealing with well-meaning Jewish hungry people, who are often elderly.
With that lengthy introduction, oh Henry, I want to tell you about my night tonight. I went to an assisted living home where the elderly go when they advance in age. We went for dinner, to eat with my wife's precious, sweet, lovely grandmother. Grandma, however, is a little bit forgetful. As the ladies were serving us, waiting on us, I was very impressed, because they were dealing with hungry, elderly and forgetful Jews. How did that manifest itself? Grandma asked the nice lady for a slice of onion. By the time the nice lady finished taking all of our third and fourth requests for more applesauce, another fork, more water, two cups of orange juice, another cup, and an extra straw, as she was walking away, not sixty seconds more than the first request-- grandma called her back, to request another slice of onion. With a smile on her face, and not the slightest bit of agitation, the woman readily agreed to get grandma more onion.
This seems like a simple story, but I believe it teaches us two fundamental life lessons. The first life lesson, is a lesson clearly taught in the Torah, and that is that we should not judge anyone until we are in their shoes. For many middle-aged folks, it is annoying when their parents start forgetting things. However, before we get annoyed, we should think what it would be like to be in our parents' shoes, being so forgetful. What would it be like if I did not remember what I did five minutes ago? What would it be like if I was nervous I would forget my apartment number? What would it be like if I didn't know who came to see me today, or what my plans were, or what day it was? It would be terrifying.
Before being annoyed that our grandparents forgot our name, or who we are, or where we live, we ought to first put ourselves in their shoes. And we should also cherish our own minds and memories, and be grateful for our ability to remember and have a mind that works properly.
But what I really wanted to do in this blogg post was to give proper props to the incredible individuals who work at these old-age homes. In a world where we idolize athletes, fame, and wealth, these people who work with the elderly very well might go unnoticed. My jaw literally dropped, as I saw these individuals return to our table, each time taking orders from all of us and Grandma, and responding with more patience and love than the previous time. I remembered the saintly women who dealt with my own grandmother during her last days in this world. My grandmother was afflicted with a very serious form of Alzheimer's, and she totally had lost her mind. Yet it became crystal clear to all of us, that the women who worked there deeply cared for, and loved her. These people's deep patience and love is something that we all need to strive for.
Life Lesson number two here, is that we need to evaluate who our heros are. Why are they are heros? Should we idolize individuals because certain unique individuals-- like myself-- were blessed with incredible super-human athletic talent? Or should we look around, and identify and give proper props to those people who really act in a heroic manner?
Lets stop trying to be football stars--and start trying to be waiters in old-age homes.