Thursday, February 2, 2017

Two construction workers served soup and it changed the world

When two construction workers came into the Panera in Brookside (near Kansas City) for their lunch break January 30, 2017, little did they know they would change the world.

Panera was crowded at 12:30pm as usual, and the two men sat at a small circle table in the middle of the dining room. Their clothing and speed at which they ate indicated they were in the middle of a job and did not intend to take a leisurely lunch break. As they finished their lunches, they noticed a woman in a booth along the side of the room near their table.

The woman was tired, disheveled, and had a recently stitched injury on her face. She was alone in the booth and had leaned her head back to rest. Her table had a backpack and papers but no tray of food.

The woman raised her head as the two men were clearing their table. Although they had a project waiting, they approached her to ask if she were okay or if she needed anything. Their eyes and tone of voice showed genuine concern for the stranger who sat alone among the chatting customers.

The lady's response to their inquiry sent the men into action. One of the men served a glass of ice water with a lemon while the other retrieved a bowl of potato soup from the counter and delivered it to her. Then, in a heartfelt demonstration of genuine concern and compassion, they joined her while she ate her soup. One pulled up a chair and sat across from her but close to her table. The other man stood nearby, as both respected her space and gently walked the fine line between care and intrusion.

The men introduced themselves as Nathan and Chris. The woman said her name was Linda.

In the midst of the noisy, bustling restaurant, the three bonded for a few moments. The men did not pry, and Linda did not offer details of her situation. After about five minutes, the men bid Linda farewell so they could return to their job site on time.

Linda ate her soup and stayed in the booth for at least another hour.

A colleague and I were meeting in a booth near Linda. We had both noticed her upon our arrival, but her eyes were closed so we did not engage with her. As we watched the scene unfold, we talked about how good people are willing, even eager, to help those in need.

It was refreshing to see people help a stranger, and it was just as inspiring that she graciously accepted their help. That's what living and leading All-In is all about, as you know if you are reading this. All-In strategy number three is Notice Others. The men noticed someone in need and they cared. And she let them.

As they left and crossed the street, I noticed one of the men walked with a limp. He never told his story. He just ate his lunch, cared for a stranger, crossed the street, walked around the corner, and went back to work. He expected no fanfare and would have resisted had I requested to take their picture (I did not ask). Through genuine compassion, Nathan and Chris served water, soup, and fellowship to someone in need. They changed Linda's day, and they changed the day of the rest of us who watched the interaction.

Those two construction workers changed everyone in the Brookside Panera this week. They impacted their neighborhood, and that's how they changed the whole world.