With permission, I am re-printing a story written by my friend Teri Goggin-Roberts. I heard it this morning at services held at Circle of Miracles, which is an interfaith community in Doylestown, PA. It is my spiritual refuel for the week, a haven in which to offer and receive sometimes sanity saving energy. The tale was read by Rev. Bob Goodwin as a ‘Spiritual Seed’ which is a feature of our celebrations. May this one take root and grow in your heart and mind.
“At the risk of stating the obvious, it looks like the holiday season is in full swing. Parking lots are overflowing with traffic and normally organized store shelves look ransacked.
Watching all the hustle and bustle this week brought back a memory of a holiday season from long ago. I was sixteen and working as a waitress in a department store restaurant. (Yes boys and girls, before malls had food courts many department stores had restaurants where tired and hungry shoppers could refuel.)
It was my first real job and although I’d been working at the restaurant for months, I was totally unprepared for the insane lunch crowd on the Saturday before Christmas. A line of people waiting for tables snaked out the door. The hostess looked frazzled. Bus boys couldn’t clear tables fast enough and the kitchen staff was grumpy.
My head spun with customer requests… more coffee, no mayonnaise, wheat, not white. I prayed that I could remember it all. On top of everything, the kitchen was so overwhelmed that orders seemed to take forever. I spent a lot of time soothing the tempers of both customers and cooks alike as I ping-ponged in and out of the kitchen.
One man in particular had been waiting for his club sandwich for a very long time. He’d already finished soda refill number two so I couldn’t stall much longer. Finally, his order appeared on the shelf in front of the sandwich cook. I grabbed it and rushed out of the kitchen. Before delivering the food, I decided to bring a third refill so the man would have everything he needed to enjoy his lunch.
I wove my way to the man’s table and put the plate in front of him. And then disaster struck. In my haste to put down the soda, I somehow knocked the (completely full) glass onto the plate.
Over 30 years later, the image of a club sandwich swimming in a pool of soda remains etched in my memory. Words failed me. I stammered an apology and waited for an angry response that never came. The man ended up comforting me!
Red faced and shaky, I cleaned up the table and rushed back to the kitchen. How could I ask an already overwhelmed cook to remake the sandwich? Immediately.
Maybe it was the crazed look in my eye, or the near hysterical tone of my voice, but Gerry-the-sandwich-cook made that sandwich again in record time (God love him). The man finally ate his lunch and left without further comment.
I learned a lot about communication and organizational skills as a waitress. But I also learned something else. On that terrible-horrible-very-bad day, I received the biggest tip of my life (nearly twice the amount of the bill). From who? The club sandwich guy.
His loving act of compassion and kindness still tugs at my heart decades later. It wasn’t logical. I didn’t deserve it. He had every right to be upset but instead of anger, this man gave me empathy, understanding and comfort – the greatest gifts of all.”
In my 20’s, while in college and in between college and grad school, I waited tables and know firsthand the hectic pace at which food is prepared and served. Some of my performance anxiety nightmares have taken place in restaurant settings. One time I dreamed that I was responsible for waiting on an entire dining room by myself….YIKES! I woke up relieved in my own bed, knowing that it was time to relinquish such high expectations for myself.
For the most part, in my waking state server role, customers were patient when their order got backed up or mixed up. When offered with love and intention, food just tastes better. Knowing Teri as an adult, I can imagine how her light shone through her head spinning overwhelm. The cook and the customer must have seen it too and stepped into their roles in the play that had her ultimately recveiving that big tip; and not just in financial form. It was a potent reminder for me that we are all at God’s table, feasting on our spiritual sustenance. I sense that it is what we all hunger for. Good thing the ‘kosmic kitchen’ is open 24/7.
My friends Deva and Stan Troy host an annual Solstice gathering in their home, to honor the turning of the seasons and the return of the Light. It is attended by kindred spirits from their various overlapping soul circles. I have been blessed to be part of the tribe for many years and have celebrated with them. One of the highlights is a gift exchange. In most settings, the idea of ‘re-gifting’ is frowned upon, since it might indicate that someone didn’t like something they had and wanted to, on the sly, give it to someone else. In our community, it is considered an even greater gift, since love gets passed along with it. I gathered a few items, including a beautiful light aquamarine shawl that had belonged to my mother Selma, a necklace with a flower on it and a copy of my Bliss Mistress book. When I arrived at the party, I placed it with the other interesting packages on the window seat where they always remain until people choose one that appeals to them. When the time came to select ours, I picked one that was in a bag decorated with an angel. Inside of it was a container with a bird and the words Happy Holidays imprinted on it, a book about Goddess energy and Interview With An Angel by Steven Thayer. The other part of the game is to find the person whose gift you received and talk to them about its significance. Mine came from my friend Annette Kroninger for whom angels are a daily part of life. The person who received the gift from me was my friend Susan Burger. She had known that my mother had passed and when I told her that the shawl and necklace had belonged to her, her gaze softened. Sitting together, we two motherless daughters spoke of the importance of that kind of nurturing wherever it came from. I then told her about the “Mom Miracles”, many of which involved butterflies, and that the cover of my book has a butterfly on it by my mom’s suggestion. Susan beamed and told me that for her birthday, she had received cards that had butterflies on them. I asked when her birthday was and was amazed but not surprised when she said the words November 26th. That was the day my mother joined my father in their new abode on the Other Side. Goosebumps and a knowing grin. Years ago, that experience would have had a twilight zone quality about it. Now it was simply an ‘of course’.
As Susan was leaving later that night, to walk out of the warmth of Stan and Deva’s home, into the cold of the late Autumn darkness, she was donning a coat with beautiful embroidery on it. I commented on it and she turned around and I saw yet another affirmation that my mother is never very far away, since the wings of a butterfly spread across Susan’s back. I could almost feel the butterfly kisses that my mother would plant on my cheek with her eyelashes, as we hugged goodnight.
This morning, on the way into work, I stopped to get a cup of chai. I carried it up to the counter to pay for it and had the precognitive experience of seeing myself doing exactly what I was about to do a moment later…spilling it on the counter. Kind of like seeing yourself locking your keys in the car right before you do it, but doing it anyway. My initial reaction was to think of myself as being careless or clumsy and I pulled myself back from that precipice, because I knew it could set the tone for the rest of my day and I wasn’t goin’ there. Instead, I took a deep breath, asked the woman behind the counter for something to clean up the mess and then wiped it up. She told me I could go back and refill my cup after I had paid for it. I walked back to the machine, and pushed the button. This time, it didn’t stop as I had expected it to and it flowed over the edge. Being the ‘queen of re-frame’, my next thought was, “Oh, my cup runneth over.” and I decided that THIS would set the tone for my day and so it did.
As I went about the next 12 hours, I found myself facing challenges and then leaping over the hurdles. I kept coming back to the thought that became my mantra. Funny, isn’t it, how we are such powerful creators of our own experience. Having little or no control over circumstance , I am ALWAYS at choice about how I embrace or reject what I am handed. It is up to me whether I view the cup as half full, half empty or full to overflowing.
Tonight as I was heading for a book signing event, at a gathering place called The Zen Den in Doylestown, PA (perfect for the experience I am describing); I set intention as I always do, to find an ‘Uncle Jimmy parking spot’. My uncle was our family parking angel and would always find the perfect spot. I invoked my mojo and after driving around the same block 4 or 5 times, as I was pulling into the parking lot of my destination, a spot opened up right by the front door. It took driving around for the spot to be available, since it wasn’t open the first time I drove through. A lesson in patience and trust that I am always at the right place at the right time.
During the presentation, I was joined by people who live that truth as well, in gratitude for the overflow, miracle manna-festation, knowing that they will see it when they believe it. I left a few hours ago, feeling deeply satisfied and gratified for a day filled to capacity and then some, with love and support, color and juice, passion and purpose.
Where in your life does your cup run over? Where would you most like it to do so?
A few days ago, a friend posted a question on Facebook asking why so many people seemed to be unhappy rather than have the ‘Christmas spirit’ or words to that effect and asked what Jesus would have to say about it. My response to him was that perhaps they had forgotten about Presence in the face of seeking presents and that Jesus might encourage folks to get their priorities in order. It got me to thinking more deeply about the importance of being fully present. How much time do I (and you) waste being in the ‘then and there’ rather than investing in the ‘here and now.’? Unfortunately, for me, far more than I would prefer in the former, but nowhere near as much as in the past. What I know is that in the grand scheme of things, the only moment that exists is this one and that everything else is mental construct. When I am caught up in the whirlwind of whatever, I miss so much of the precious moment and the interaction with the people sharing it with me. I would much rather have love as companion than anger and resentment, frustration and limitation as a result of focusing on the shoulda-woulda-coulda’s, what if’s and if onlies.
I often say that my friends and family are my treasures, worth far more than any worry, fret or fear. I love attracting kindred spirits and collecting hearts and my life is immeasurably enriched because of it. More often, when distracted by all the ‘crazy-busy’, multitasking that goes in in my life,I am finding myself taking a deep breath and re-focusing on the person in front of me. I remember the lyrics to a song that my friend Charley Thweatt wrote with the cheery title ‘You Will Die Someday’. It really is a beautiful piece with 2 particular lines that get me each time I hear them: “Take your time when being with people. What’s another minute to you?” Think about an experience in which someone really saw you, listened to you, got you, because they took that time. You felt like you mattered, that you were important and made a difference to them. That is worth far more than any wrapped and be-ribboned package.
This holy-day season and throughout every sacred day of the year, I encourage and invite you to BE the gift in the lives of those you love and those whom you will love that you haven’t even met yet, and allow them to BE that for you as well. One of the cool things about this type of present is that it can be freely given, costing nothing and the recipient will not mind that you are re-gifting.