A Burger, Fries and Large Serving of Wisdom

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To everyone who has worked in the food industry, I salute you. I salute you for the physical exertion you put into your jobs to get hot food to your customers quickly. I salute you for serving it with a smile, and sometimes a knowing quip that makes all the difference. You influence more people than you realize.

Like many young people, I worked in the food service industry as a teen. The demands of the job, as well as the rewards, helped me mature into the worker that I became as an adult. Lessons such as show up on time. Keep moving. Listen more than you speak. Smile. These lessons never left me. Nonetheless, the passing of time has blurred my memory of the most important lesson of all. I forgot the power of lending an ear to a stranger and using a smile to make a difference on someone’s life outlook, even if only fleeting. I was reminded of this power when I took a part-time job in a restaurant recently. My coworkers come from all walks of life. Teachers supplementing their incomes, grad students trying to make tuition, single moms tryin to make rent, mid-life corporate execs taking a break… you name it. In all, there are 2.5 million waiters/waitresses in the U.S., according to Bureau of Labor Statistics, and earning a median annual salary of less than $20,000.

They are the cheapest therapists money can buy. They give you their full attention, listen to your troubles and make sure you feel better leaving than when your arrived. They are amazing people, who make others smile on the job while battling their own life drama off the job. I am in awe of their talent for suspending their needs while running around breathless tending to others.

Many people believe food service jobs serve as a great boot camp for young people entering the work force for the first time. I also believe that restaurant jobs can serve as a powerful refresher course for mid-life desk job workers, like me, re-learning to exercise their oft-neglected power to make or break someone else’s day. With a kind word or two, you can change your world, one customer at a time, one meal at a time. #waitressesrock