Archive for waking up in winter


Preventing Traumatic Memories for Others

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In my last post, I wrote about how to prevent a painful event from becoming a trauma–for yourself. 

Now I’d like to share a story that beautifully illustrates how, through simple acts of kindness, we can prevent an event from becoming a trauma for others.

This comes from Cheryl Richards’s newsletter, dated July 1, 2018. Cheryl is the author of several books, her latest being Waking Up in Winter: In Search of What Really Matters at Midlife. Here is what she wrote.

It happened in an eat-in-the-rough restaurant in Bar Harbor, Maine. My friend Melissa and I had just ordered our meal when a boy walked into the room balancing a large tray on his shoulder. It was covered with several plates of food.

A family of five behind us was about to get their dinner.

As the boy stooped down to slide the tray onto the serving stand, a heaping plate of onion rings shifted and the whole tray went crashing to the floor.

Everyone in the restaurant stopped eating.

The family of five turned in their seats and gazed down at the onion rings, french fries and fried clams that were strewn all over the deck.

The boy stood in the middle of the mess, looking stunned and embarrassed.

That’s when it happened.…

A waiter came rushing into the room – a young man who looked to be in his late twenties. He stopped at the entrance when he saw the food scattered about the young man’s feet. We all took a collective breath as we anticipated his next move.

He stood quietly for a few seconds assessing the damage, then knelt down and started cleaning up the mess.

“It’s okay,” he said in a calm, loving voice as he scraped food off the floor. “It happens to all of us.”

The frightened boy slowly leaned down next to him to help pick up the plates.

“Please don’t feel bad,” the waiter continued as he playfully tousled the boy’s hair. “We all make mistakes. You’ll forget about this in no time.”

Melissa and I looked at each other, tears brimming in our eyes. A hushed silence filled the room. The waiter’s kindness was palpable. I’m sure everyone in the restaurant felt it.

Now there’s a model for how to be a good human being, I said to Melissa as we resumed eating our meal.

A beautiful lesson in choosing kindness under pressure.

I think about kindness and compassion a lot these days.  With so much divisiveness here in the U.S., I remind myself of how important it is to contribute something good and helpful and healing to others.

I also think about that young man at the restaurant and the example he set of grace under pressure, his impulse for choosing kindness over reaction and drama.

You never know when life’s going to present you with a teacher, do you?  That young waiter gives me hope for our future.

Thanks, Cheryl. You have given us a powerful picture not only of kindness in action, but of how to prevent a traumatic memory in another person. That young waiter who made the mistake will now have a memory of grace and kindness, rather than a memory of humiliation and failure, for the rest of his life. And so will the others who witnessed this scene, and who read these words….

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