Tag Archives: Kindness

The Christmas Eve Tahini Sauce Incident

7 Jan

This wasn’t the first Christmas that I’ve spent away from family. One year I was snowed in by a freak blizzard in Seattle and couldn’t get a flight home till late Christmas day. And I spent my first Christmas on the East Coast with my then-boyfriend’s family in Maryland. This was my first year since that Maryland Christmas that I didn’t travel to Reno to see my parents or to Philadelphia to see my family there. I thought I might spend the holiday with a boyfriend, but I had decided to end things the week before.

I had to work late on Christmas Eve, but I found a Lutheran church that had a late candlelight service at 10pm. It’s one of my favorite traditions, so I thought I’d put on my brand new Stitch Fix dress and treat myself.

After work, I had some time to kill before the service, so I went to the only open bookstore I could find and bought myself a new book and a nice new shoulder bag to carry it in. I walked the 30 blocks from Union Square to where the church was located. New York City has been so warm this winter; I used the walk to enjoy the weather and clear my mind.

I made it up to the Hell’s Kitchen area where the church was and thought, “What a nice evening I’m having!” Then, I decided to treat myself further. To a falafel sandwich.

I walked into a small store that had a wide range of specialty falafels. It was full of Israeli people, and I stuck out. Everyone was being exceptionally kind to me, as it was Christmas Eve, and I was clearly alone. I ordered my sandwich, and an older man wearing a yarmulke smiled at me and promised, “This will be the best falafel you ever have!”

The giant sandwich barely fit in my hands as I carried it to the other side of the store where a variety of sauces were. I picked up the tahini sauce to put it on my sandwich, but nothing came out. I gave it one quick shake, and the lid of the bottle came off and the entire bottle of Tahini sauce drenched my sandwich, my hands, my jacket, my brand new dress, my boots. I stand there frozen, holding the empty bottle and watching the sauce drip from my sandwich to the floor. I lift my gaze to look around the tiny shop, unsure what to do.

I was alone on Christmas Eve. No family. No boyfriend. My brand new dress was ruined. I was hungry. My sandwich was ruined. I had told myself all day that I was okay with it all, but I wasn’t, and it took that tahini sauce to make me feel it. But I held it together. I wanted to cry, but I swallowed it down. Until all the patrons of the little falafel shop swarmed me.

The guys who were working there took my ruined sandwich and started making me a new one. The old man who had promised me a magical falafel experience asked me if I was okay. A couple with a baby stroller started handing me a bunch of baby wipes to clean myself. All these strangers huddled around me and tried to make sure I was okay. And that’s what made me cry. Embarrassing tears falling out on their own. I had tried so hard to make the best of things, and it was as if the universe had replied, “Nope. Not today.”

I cleaned myself up as best I could and figured I couldn’t go to a new church covered in Tahini sauce stains. So I gathered my things and rushed out the door as someone yelled behind me, “Miss, you forgot your sandwich!” I couldn’t face them. I was humiliated by my tears and by my inadvertent clumsiness.

I’ve recounted this story a dozen times to my friends and family, often to a reaction of laughing and joking. Christmas didn’t turn out so bad as I spent it with friends. I look back on that night in that falafel shop as an important reminder. Those strangers didn’t have to rally around me like they did. They didn’t have to worry about me and try to make it right. I was embarrassed, but I wish I had the courage to stay and to say thank you. New York can seem like a cold and distant place, and the world at large as hateful things happening all the time.

But there are two ways of looking at my Christmas Eve falafel incident. One: the universe is cruel and unforgiving. Or two: there is an inherent goodness in people, and even though I started the evening feeling alone, I wasn’t. It just took a bottle of tahini sauce to see that even strangers can be there.

I don’t even remember exactly where the shop was, and I have no way of tracking down those strangers, but I am so grateful that they were there that night and that they were kind to me. As I rode the subway home and thought about all that had happened, it was the first time in the whole day that I honestly felt like I was okay and that things would be fine.

Thank you strangers. Thank you so much for that.

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3 Lessons I’ve Learned in 2015

26 Dec

2015 New Year celebration

I’ve always been a huge fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve figured that the key to good resolutions is in the specifics. You can’t say “Be healthier.” It needs to be something trackable like “Eat a salad once a week” or “Work out twice a week.” I’m not one to lecture on these things, though, since I only went one-for-five on my resolutions this year. But I made significant progress toward the other four, so that’s a start!

I read somewhere on the inter webs this week an article a girl had written about her lessons learned over the year. I can’t for the life of me find it, but the idea of it stuck with me. It’s not enough to set goals moving forward, we also have to look back and choose what lessons we take with us.

I’m surprised at how hard I had to stew in my thoughts to figure out what are the things I’ve learned this year. Of course, there were a million mini-revelations like finding the right shade of lipstick for my pale skin tone and just how much money I save by packing lunch (so much money!). But I turned to my diary to recap the year and see if there were any grander life lessons to be gleaned.

LESSON #1: TRUST THAT GUT FEELING

In the relationships of my past, I spent a lot of time trying to make things work, hoping things fell into place. I’d make excuses about timing and how things can develop. But as I get older, I realize that voice inside of me that quietly whispers, “This ain’t going to work” shouldn’t be ignored. I’ve always been open to giving someone a chance, but at some point, you know. You know in your heart of hearts that this person isn’t YOUR person. This was the year I decided I was done with settling for anything less than amazing. It saved me time and heartbreak and saved the lovely people I dated time and heartbreak to accept that moving forward wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t a set of deal-breakers or standards that I set. It was trusting my heart when it told me to move on.

LESSON #2: A NIGHT IN IS A VALID AND ACCEPTABLE OPTION

I love going out with my friends. I love trying new things and meeting new people. But for a long time I measured my life by how amazing my nights out were. And if I found myself home without plans on a Friday or Saturday night, I almost felt like I was in a panic. What did that say about my life? I’m in my twenties, shouldn’t I be out on the town having adventures? Is my life as exciting as those I see on Instagram?

When I was a senior in high school, I had an odd falling out with my best friend at the time. We stopped talking, and I was ostracized from my social circle. I spent months with nothing to do on my weekends. So I started going to music shops and book shops alone and buying NME magazine, the New Yorker, Harper’s. I’d spend my evenings listening to Brit Pop, the Velvet Underground, David Bowie. I’d read my dorky literary magazines and write for hours in my diary and other notebooks. I eventually made new friends who have remained some of my closest friends to this day. The point is, I used the time alone on my own to grow, to give time to things that I loved and was interested in. I brooded on existential questions about what I wanted out of life and I made collages of cool bands from the magazines I read.

I loved those nights, and I’ve brought them back. I treasure my nights in reading, writing, cooking, studying. I learned to stop caring about whether my life is as glamorous as it could be.

LESSON #3: INVEST IN SMALL KINDNESS

Here’s a key to instant happiness: do something nice for someone else. It doesn’t have to be big. I got paper valentines for my girlfriends in February. I bought my friend who was having anxiety issues a small book about breathing and introductory meditation. I tried to smile and be as nice as possible to cashiers and waiters. No matter what. Even on my worst days when I curse the city, the subway, the weather, the smells, the everything. In fact, those are the days when I needed it the most. By smiling and making a genuine effort to be kind, I found that the kindness was mirrored right back to me. It didn’t take much to make my forced smile become a natural one. If I made a stranger’s day better, so be it. If I reminded friends and family that I love them and appreciate them, that’s great! Being kind to people is never a bad idea.

 

28 Before 28: Visit a New Baseball Stadium

10 Sep

In my 28th year of life, I’m attempting to do 28 new things. Full list here.

Citizen's Bank Park

Citizen’s Bank Park

My, oh, my, the Mariner’s this year! I’ve been an avid fan since 2007 and have witnessed dismal seasons. But as I write this, they are in the second wild card spot for the American League and only one game behind Oakland. AHHH!! Back in February when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, I joked that the Mariner’s were also going to win the World Series. It’s still a long shot, but it’s possible! We COULD do it.

So I was browsing their schedule a couple of weeks ago to see which teams we’d be facing in this epic playoff berth. The day I checked happened to be the first day they were playing the Phillies in Philadelphia for a three game series. I had the following day off and wanting to escape some personal drama, I made a last minute decision to hop a morning bus to Philadelphia the next day to spend the day there. I convinced my friend Quincey to go with me, and we were off!

Citizens Bank Park is beautiful! The people are so nice! I’m used to going to Mariner games at Yankee stadium where I’m harassed at least a couple of times by obnoxious Yankee fans. But the city of brotherly love lived up to its name. This is how a typical conversation with a Phillie fan went:

“You’re a Seattle fan?”
“Yeah, I went to college in Seattle and have been a fan ever since,” I say with hesitation, waiting to be berated.
“That’s great! Beautiful city! You sure have a great team this year.”
“It’s about time we have a good season!”
“Yeah, I wish the Phillies were playing that well. Enjoy the game!”
“Why thank you! You too!”

How nice is that?! Sometimes spending enough time in New York makes one forget that there is the possibility for human kindness and compassion in the world. But it’s out there.

One Mariner fan and one Mariner/Met fan.

One Mariner fan and one Mariner/Met fan.

It was a fun day trip. We ate Philly cheesesteaks north of the stadium before we arrived so I didn’t get a chance to try any of the ballpark food. But I loved the game there. Best part was the Phillie Phanatic. What a great mascot! He had an ATV that he drove around the field with abandon and even got into a play-verbal argument with the Mariner dugout. The Phillies might have a disappointing lineup this year, but they’ll always have the phanatic.