“My name’s Patricia and I’ll be taking care of you today. What can I get for you?” She asked us, the only people in this small, hotel breakfast restaurant.
I immediately commented on her glasses, which were oversized, red and black. Since I started wearing big red glasses, I like to compliment other people on their striking accessories, because it takes a certain level of guts to wear such things (at least, that’s what I tell myself!).
Over the course of the meal, my family and I talked about our planned event for the day: to jet ski. My brother didn’t wake up in time for breakfast, so we jokingly commented that he’d have to “skip it and suck it up.” Patricia heard these passing comments, and by the end of the meal, she had bagged up an entire to-go order for him (complete with mini jellies and orange juice with a bendy straw). It was so sweet, and my brother was beyond happy eating his omelet on our hour drive to the marina to jet ski. We left a huge tip, of course.
Patricia greeted us again the next morning, and again we were the only family in the restaurant. She asked us our plans for the day, and we told her today we were going to hike and paddleboard. She had memorized our orders from the day before, so without us even ordering our food was presented on our table. She even picked up on the fact that my dad had really wanted chocolate chip pancakes the day before but hadn’t ordered them because they weren’t exactly on his diet. So, today, she delivered him two chocolate chip pancakes, along with his other food, of course. We thanked her profusely, gave her a huge tip, and again went on our way.
The next morning she jokingly asked us what fun adventure we had planned that day, and we told her all about our ideas. She continued her amazing generosity, showing us deals on the menu and laughing with us over our adventures. She even recommended all these places nearby that have beautiful views. We again left a huge tip, befriended some of her other server friends, and went on our way.
That night, when we returned to our hotel room, she had slipped a gift under our door: a painted frame, sunscreen, lip balm, and granola bars “for the most active family she knew,” the letter read.
We were stunned. Not only had she gone above and beyond to serve us food every morning, she now went so far as to buy us a gift—and a super thoughtful one at that!
After giving her a giant hug the next morning, we decided to ask her her life story. Turns out she’s not from the US. She’s from Serbia. She learned English all her life, though, and she barely had an accent (She speaks French, too!). When she graduated college in Serbia, she pursued a Master’s. After graduating from her Master’s program, she decided she needed a break from school and enrolled in a Serbian program that allows recent graduates to work abroad. She chose the United States, where she got a job as a waitress at a restaurant about five minutes up the road from the one we were currently dining in. After about two months working there, her best guy friend from Serbia emailed her and said he was coming to visit. “All the way to the US? That’s a 25-hour flight!” she exclaimed to him. Ironically, he had grown up near where she was working, so he decided to visit her and see his hometown again. He had paid for the ticket, booked his stay, and was already on his way. After two weeks in the US, he asked her to date him. She was hesitant, not wanting to do long distance, but he insisted they would make it work. They traveled all over Europe together as a couple and she fell in love with him. Two years later, he asked her to marry him. Because he was born in the US, they were able to move to the US permanently and have been living here for the past five years. Shortly after she married him, she started working as a waitress “in this wonderful restaurant” and has helped the other waiters and waitresses learn English and get the hang of things, too.
After we had said our many awwww’s at how adorable her story was, she continued. She told us that she loved serving our family because it reminded her of her family back home. Being 25 hours from Serbia, she rarely sees her parents or her sister. “Family is the most important part of life, and I think I really took that for granted when I lived back home,” she lamented.
My brother and I looked at each other, realizing that our family vacation now meant even more. I shook my head, mad at myself that before breakfast I had picked a fight with my family over something silly. I thanked her for reminding me how special it was to be spending time with the people I loved most.
Patricia lives a life I hope this blog inspires people to live: one of joyful abandon, of vulnerable risk-taking, of incredible thoughtfulness and generosity. She didn’t have to get to know my family. She didn’t have to slip a gift for us under our hotel room door. She didn’t have to tell us her life story. We didn’t have to ask. But what a beautiful life we have to live that through our choosing to be different we can create fruitful connections and be challenged to see our world differently. What a beautiful life we have to live that when we let down our walls, people have so many incredible stories to share. Thanks for being you, Patricia.