Lessons Learned from a Pleasant Surprise

It has been some time since I have written anything for this blog and so now I have a backlog of topics to consider.  The following experience occurred in late December, just prior to the holidays.

I was in Pinehurst, NC and I had some time before my next customer meeting so I decided to visit the Pinehurst Village Center (the quaint, historic shopping district) for lunch.  I found a local restaurant that looked suitable, walked in, and was quickly seated by the hostess.  Around the time I was placing my order, a family walked in and was soon seated at the table next to me.  At first glance it appeared that this family consisted of a mother and four kids ranging in age from around 8 to 15.  Even though I have kids, I have to admit that my first thought when I saw them sit at the table next to me was something to the effect of, “Well, there goes my nice, quiet lunch.”

Unfortunately, way more often than not, my experiences with families in restaurants recently have been not so thrilling, and with the age range of the kids in this family it seemed inevitable that something obnoxious would take place.  Would the younger kids start punching each other?  Would the teenagers ignore their mother and younger siblings in an effort to show how they were too cool to be seen with the family.  Or even worse, would all of the kids pull smart phones, DSs, iPods, etc. out of their pockets so that the family would share an entire meal together without ever acknowledging each other’s existence.  I have seen it all and I was sure I was going to see one of these scenarios or something similar this time as well.

I prepared to do what I usually do in these situations.  I would keep to myself.  I would try to enjoy my meal, read my newspaper, and ignore the likely shenanigans at the next table as best I could.

To my surprise nothing at all similar to any of the above scenarios developed with this family.  It turned out that the family actually consisted of a mom, her three kids (two boys somewhere around 8 and 11, and a teenage girl probably about 15), and the daughter’s boyfriend (around 15 as well).  The addition of the boyfriend could have really thrown the whole thing into a tailspin but again this was not the case.  The whole family got along.  They talked to each other.  They treated each other and the others around them with respect.  I did not see a single electronic device in anyone’s hand the whole meal.  To me, the most endearing part of their meal was the fact that the waitress brought coloring pages and crayons to the table (probably intended only for the younger kids) and all four of the kids (even the teenagers and especially even the boyfriend) quietly colored prior to their meal being served.

It was so refreshing to see a family like this that was so well-behaved and present with each other out in public.  I wanted to compliment this family – to let them know how impressed I was with them – but for some reason I never did.  I think my silence was due mostly to the fact that the mother was probably around my age or maybe even a few years older.  I guess I did not feel like I was enough of an elder statesman to pay her a compliment.  I really wish I had complimented them though.  People really need to hear positive comments.  People SHOULD be told when they are doing something well – when they are making a difference.

I learned two valuable lessons from this experience.

1)  I was reminded once again how it is better to avoid pre-judging – people, things, scenarios.  In fact it is better to avoid judging in general.

2)  I need to speak up and tell people when I am inspired or impressed by them.  When I see someone doing something well, I need to let them know.  Next time, don’t just walk away.

The experience with this family in Pinehurst inspired me to make a New Year’s resolution to make sure to openly express more gratitude.  My experiences with working on this resolution will be discussed in future blog posts throughout the year.

Have you been pleasantly surprised by someone or something recently?  If so, I would love to hear about your experience!

With Thanks,


About Steve Strother

I am a student of life and therefore I am a lifelong learner. I believe we are all here to evolve spiritually and doing so, and helping others do so, is my ultimate quest. I currently write at The Road to Peace about people helping other people because I believe helping others is a path to peace and also spiritual growth. I am currently developing a coaching program to help men connect to joy in life - specifically through understanding the the characteristics they exhibit (and can access) through the four main masculine archetypes as well as through helping them connect more authentically to the feminine - both within themselves, in the world around them, and with women.
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8 Responses to Lessons Learned from a Pleasant Surprise

  1. Thien says:

    🙂 great post and resolutions to work on this year my friend. I started verbalizing my thoughts, positive AND not-so-positive, more in recent years. It is interesting that we tend to be more willing to tell others what we don’t like and not often enough what we like and appreciate. I’m working on me constantly. Glad you are also.

    • Thank you Thien! I have a lot of thoughts I need to verbalize more (positive and not-so-positive as well) and that experience at the restaurant in Pinehurst helped me especially realize that I do not compliment people enough. It is important to verbalize our thoughts whether positive or not, especially if we want something to change. People don’t always know they are doing something right until they are told. When we tell them, it is more likely that they will continue that behavior. Likewise, if we do not provide constructive criticism then we cannot expect people to change behavior appropriately either. It is all about communication!

  2. Sherry says:

    Nice! I have read about a positive response that you wouldn’t even need to verbalize. When you pay your own bill, pay for the table with the lovely family also. Let it be a surprise for them when they discover that their meal is already taken care of. I have not had the opportunity to do this myself, but love the idea…..And by the way, be real careful to whom you verbalize your negative comments. There are some people who would take that very badly, and poke you in the nose:D.

  3. Mom – Thank you for this suggestion. This is something that would be nice to do for someone someday. Thank you for your concern also regarding communicating the not so positive. I will keep that in mind 🙂

  4. Great post, Steve! I was recently surprised by an older gentleman who works for the nonprofit ride service I use. I pegged him as a nice but probably boring old guy. However, each time I’ve ridden with him, I’ve learned something quite interesting about him. Perhaps the best thing was his declaration one day that he was completely happy and had absolutely nothing to complain about. Wow! A guy who drives old folks and blind people around for a living–obviously not a millionaire–said that. He said he loves his job, has tons of interests that he enjoys immensely, and is in good health. I’m sure his great happiness comes not only from having a good life but also from having a positive outlook. Surely he’s encountered suffering just as everyone else does, but it hasn’t brought him down one bit.

    This man says he’s not religious, but I’d say his spirituality is worth emulating. 🙂

    • Thank you for this recommendation Robert! I just fisnished watching the documentary that you recommended – “2012: Time for Change”. Wow!! I found it very interesting. I was a little curious about where the film was heading in the early to middle part of it but it picked up steam and everything came together well. I think there is a lot to be said for the basic messages of this film. Some of the quotes that really got my attention are:

      “If a lot of people are led to believe that something horrendous is going to occur then it is more likely to occur. So we need to get people to focus on the positive.” I think this is true (it is they key factor that lead me to start this blog) in all aspects of life but recently has been very apparent with the state of the economy. When the media focuses on poor economic indicators people get scared and the economy takes a downturn and continues to perform poorly for as long as the media focuses on the negative economic news. Eventually, the economy stops making the news as much and the economy starts to improve. The media then start focusing on the improving economy, people get more confident and therefore start investing and spending more, and the economy continues to improve. But it is all part of a cycle.

      “Ultimately it comes down to are you going to do something about it.” – I definitely feel that we need people to start looking for solutions rather than just allowing themselves to be paralyzed by the issues of our society. I like many of the possible solutions presented in this film.

      “Cooperation rather than competition.” – To solve issues we all need to find ways to work together.

      “Different types of money/currency create different relationships.” – This is in relation to creating alternative or complimentary currencies. I like this idea – basically looking for ways to work together, to share, etc. Not necessarily completely replacing our current monetary system but at least looking for other ways to get things done, to help each other, etc.

      “Nature does not sustain intself. It flourishes and thrives. We are part of nature and so we should do the same thing.” This was the closing quote of the film and was made by the narrator, Daniel Pinchbeck. It is a strong statement to use to close the movie. He is talking about moving from a world of survivalism to a world of sustainability and eventually going even further to a world of flourishing and thriving. I love it!

      Thanks again for reommending this film. I encourage others to watch it as well. Hopefully you and I can talk about this in more detail some time.

      Steve Strother

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