Life in the Breakfast Room
Sheryl is the warm, friendly hostess for the breakfast area at a Bellingham hotel. She goes about her task with a smile, engaging the breakfast crowd with thoughtfulness and care. Her genuine concern for the folks she serves exudes in everything she does. Some guests are overnighters and only get a small taste of her hospitality. Others are there over days and Sheryl creates an atmosphere of friendship and family. Of course, there are always people who prefer to remain private and to themselves. Sheryl respects their space and is careful not to intrude into their lives. But with folks who respond to her kindness, bonds of closeness form quickly and when those guests eventually leave Sheryl senses the loss.
You might think that it would be easier not to connect so as to protect oneself from the perpetual requirement of letting go of the people Sheryl comes to care about. Somehow, however, I doubt that the thought of protecting herself from disappointment has ever crossed her mind. She seems intent on loving and caring for people, giving a piece of her heart away, and then turning to extend her attention and delight to the next person or family that responds to her joyful presence.
During a recent trip to Bellingham, I was lingering in the breakfast area at my laptop while the maids were tidying up my room. Sheryl was cheerfully cleaning up and saying her goodbyes to guests who were leaving, but stopping by on their way out for one last encounter. At first I thought they were her relatives. Then I realized that they were simply guests who had become close friends during their stay. Sheryl had made a difference in their lives.
Sheryl engaged with me several times as I worked, making sure I was comfortable, had everything I needed, and wasn’t being annoyed by the television, etc., etc.! At one point she paused and we chatted briefly about the people she met through her job. She praised them as being the finest folks anywhere, and they were from all over. She knew something of their stories because she had dared to care and connect. “People are wonderful!” she assured me. And as she moved on to complete her tasks (still checking on me from time to time, just in case…) I thought about how her perception of “People are wonderful” was probably a result of her being such a wonderful person herself.
An Oasis of Life
We can live self-protected lives with fear and suspicion of others, careful not to care lest we be disappointed, or connect lest we be hurt. I suppose that there is a level of safety to be known in such a small life. But in openness, kindness, service, and, of course, vulnerability, we can contribute to the world being a place where “wonderful” happens. Relationships can form, joy can be multiplied, troubles shared, life enriched, and love flood the space between us.
Learning to live in wholehearted openness to others is scary for most of us. We have been hurt, disappointed, and betrayed. Risking rejection, gambling on the goodness of others, and daring to care are not natural courses of action to take in our world. But if we know that our lives are intact in the hands of Jesus, that he is our strength and our refuge, then, of all people, followers of Jesus can be oases of life in the desert of contemporary culture. We can live open and free and make a difference. It’s really simple. I watched it happen in a breakfast room.