#495: Big Attitude in a Small Town
Sunday, June 26, 2011
His name is Santiago. He looks to be about 45 but could easily be 10-15 years older. He works as a cook/server/busboy/greeter in a small dining room in a small hotel in a small town.
Every morning he arises in the wee hours when the guests are asleep in order to prepare scrambled eggs, sausage, bagels, pastries, cereal, milk, juice and coffee for the earliest arrivals at 6:30 a.m. With a genuine smile and a hearty hello, he greets every guest and asks, "Would you like a hot waffle today, my friend?"
The tables have been set with place mats, salt, pepper and syrup. The aromas tantalize even the sleepiest of the hungry. Complimentary copies of the day's newspaper await those awake enough to read. The large screen TV on the wall is tuned to the day's weather and news.
"Good morning, my friends," he greets new arrivals. "Would you like a waffle again this morning?" His memory is remarkable. As I stumbled in, sure my eyes were closed and I was moving by rote, I heard, "Lou, my new friend, good morning to you. How are you today?"
It was hard not to smile and return the warm greeting. "Santiago, how are you today?" "I am fine. It is a great morning, isn't it?" "I'm sure it is," I reply, "but will be even better after some coffee and orange juice and some of your delicious breakfast." He beams and shows me to a table then turns to greet the next guests. He knows not to ask me about waffles; he knows I am not a waffle person.
I gather a plate and fill it, savoring the smells and feeling my heart and my spirit being blessed by this man whose bountiful energy and good humor set the stage for our days. I sip the coffee and juice and eat, perusing the paper and watching the TV news all the while noticing the positive reaction Santiago has on even the grumpiest of guests.
As I finish, he rushes over to clear my plate but I tell him, "That's okay. I'll get it. Save your energy." "Oh, I have very much energy, very much, because I have all of you to make breakfast for." He smiles and takes away the plate.
I just shake my head. I am not a morning person, more of a grunt, groan, is it morning already type of person. I wondered how he does it. And for more than 22 years he tells me.
I fold a tip and offer it to him as we shake hands. "Thank you Santiago. Another good breakfast." He beams, bows slightly, and smiles a smile that radiates happiness. "And you have a successful day, my friend."
As I turn to leave I hear the familiar refrain, "Good morning, good morning, would you like a hot waffle this morning?" as two other guests arrive.
I smile and leave, knowing this man has shown me and the others that happiness does not lie in having a high-powered job with a huge company in a large city. What Santiago shows us is that true happiness comes from being content in our circumstances and in serving others.
If you're ever in the town of Stuart, south of Vero Beach, on Florida's southeast coast and stay at the Clarion Hotel, whether you are a morning person or not, set your alarm and head for the dining room to meet one of the happiest people I have had the pleasure of knowing.
You will be greeted with a warm smile and a hearty, "Good morning, my friend. Would you like a waffle this fine morning?"