The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

You can help by leaving comments on posts and by becoming a follower. I'd really like to know who you are and what your thoughts are on what I'm doing. To date, more than a quarter million people have viewed the blog and that's great. But every great leader needs followers and if I am ever to achieve my goal of becoming the next great leader of the Italian culinary world :-) I need followers!

Grazie mille!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

No Catchy Headline: Just Something to Restore Your Faith in Humanity

I'm a cynic, a skeptic, and a curmudgeon. Part and parcel of getting old, I guess. Then, doggone it, this guy named “Jake” comes along and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

I've written a lot about manners and etiquette in restaurants. And I've often decried the general lack thereof, especially among clueless parents with bratty kids. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the root of the problem lies with the clueless parents rather than with the bratty kids. In most cases, the kids wouldn't be bratty if the parents had a clue.

This philosophy has led to “kid free” zones in some restaurants. There are even eateries that entirely prohibit children. A lot of parents complain about this, but I – curmudgeon that I am – applaud the effort because I don't like kids running around a restaurant screaming and playing while their self-absorbed idiot parents sit by and pretend their little darlings aren't driving everybody else in the place nuts. Besides being incredibly rude and annoying, it's not particularly safe for the kids, for the other patrons, and most especially not for the staff who have to dance around the little monsters while carrying trays full of hot food and beverages.

I'll admit it – I'm a jerk. I've asked to be moved to another table if a family of screaming meemies is seated next to me. At the very least, I've girded my loins and gritted my teeth and muttered, “there goes the neighborhood” when a passel of kids sits down at the next table, fully expecting my quiet dining experience to be shot all to hell.

I raised two fairly rambunctious boys. They played hard and rough and did their best to maim or kill one another from time to time. But all that rambunctiousness came to a screeching halt when they hit the dinner table. There they were expected to behave like civilized human beings. I'm proud to say I never once got a complaint from fellow diners about my boys or even so much as a dirty look. In fact, quite the opposite was true. Didn't matter if we were in a four-star restaurant or a roadside diner, I frequently fielded compliments from strangers who thanked me for having such well-behaved children. I was proud of my boys for their behavior and proud of myself for my insistence upon it. And I have paid it forward, often taking a moment to pause at a table on my way out and thank the parents for the deportment of their kids.

But this “Jake” guy makes me look like a piker. And, frankly, I'm glad of it.

According to a report by ABC11 in Raleigh, NC, there was this single mom who took her kids to a local Pizza Hut for a weekly Friday night dinner. She was in the midst of a messy divorce, and was having a generally rough time of it, but she wanted to provide her children with this one little bit of stability. On top of it all, one of her sons is dealing with ADHD and his meds were wearing off when they hit the Hut. To her credit, she forewarned a man seated in a nearby booth that things could get a little boisterous and apologized in advance. The guy brushed it off with a smile and assurances that he, too, had kids and he understood her situation. And that was that. Or was it?

The young mother did her best to keep her kids in line as the meal progressed. Unlike idiots who just let their kids run wild and crazy in public places, oblivious to the needs of others, this mom stayed right there with them, talking to them and trying to keep them under control. The report I read said she attempted to “engage with her kids to keep them on their best behavior.”

Eventually, the gentleman seated near them finished his meal and left. It's at this point in the narrative that I have to admit I don't know what I would have done were I in his position. And I've been somewhat in his position. My wife and I were enjoying a nice quiet meal at a Pizza Hut one evening when the staff started pulling tables together next to us and seated a large family with five or six very young children. We braced ourselves, but the expected rowdy behavior never happened. We were delighted and stopped to compliment the parents as we left the restaurant. But this guy – Jake – had a little different experience. The story doesn't indicate that things ever really got out of hand, but the implication is that the mother had her hands full, so Jake probably didn't have the best dining experience as a result.

Anyway, time came for mom to gather up the kids and pay the check. But the waitress told her that the young man seated next to her had already paid her bill. What's more, he left her a Pizza Hut gift card to cover a future meal. And he wrote her a little letter. If you start tearing up as you read it, it's okay. I did, too.

"I do not know your back story,” he wrote, “but I have had the privilege of watching you parent your children for the past 30 minutes. I have to say thank you for parenting your children in such a loving manner." The man continued, "I have watched you teach your children about the importance of respect, education, proper manners, communication, self control, and kindness all while being very patient." "I will never cross your path again,” he said, “but am positive that you and your children have amazing futures." The letter concluded, "Keep up the good work, and when it starts to get tough, do not forget that others may be watching and will need the encouragement of seeing a good family being raised. God bless! -Jake"

If that doesn't restore your faith in humanity and inspire you to be a better person, you may be beyond help. It certainly got to me and now I may have to go and rip up all my cynic, skeptic, and curmudgeon cards. Thanks to this display of selfless kindness, the next time the opportunity presents itself, and if the situation warrants, I will go beyond a simple kind word myself.

Bless you, Jake, and thanks for sharing the planet and making it  better place.

And, speaking of sharing, I couldn't come up with a single snappy header that would give this post better SEO, and the search engines are just going to ignore it. So if you liked the story and if it made a difference in your day, share a link to it with somebody else, okay?

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