The table was huge. It looked to be set for thirteen or fourteen people. I was glad that we got there early and hoped that we'd be gone before the group arrived. The waitress was one of those quick, friendly types who should be put in charge of training every other service person in the world. We settled back to drink our tea and wait for the food to arrive. I like quiet breakfasts so we always head down eat early. I was also about to do a session at the conference that started at 8:30 so I wanted to be fed and watered in plenty of time to get over there and get set up. I don't use any kind of audio visuals so getting set up is just getting in the room, getting my notes out and waiting while worrying. Fretting is such a useful way to spend time.
Before long the people started to arrive at the long table. The first guy I recognized from my session for self-advocates the day before. A fortyish guy with Down Syndrome. He waved when he saw me and said hello. His speech is far from clear but over the years I've gotten used to a variety of disability accents and I found him fairly easy to understand. In minutes there were six or seven people there at the table. A few minutes more and the table was full. Maybe one or two care providers at the most. The table was lively with laughter and discussion.
Our food arrived and Chantal, our waitress, headed over to take the order from the large table. Forgive me but I thought to myself, 'this will be fun to watch.' But it wasn't. She just took the order with efficiency and common sense. Several people had unclear speach but all she did was repeat what she thought they said, like she had with us, and when they nodded she wrote it down, when they shook their heads, she asked them to clarify. Some pointed at the menu, others had people order for them. Chantal went from person to person and communication mode to communication mode like she'd done it a thousand times before.
She managed to make everyone feel welcome and everyone feel competent. She had a natural grace about her that left people smiling in her wake. What a gift. I remember at church years ago taking a course taught by the pastor on 'discovering your gifts' and as all of us sat there in the class he went over the biblical gifts. The gift of 'hospitality' brought giggles of derision from all of us in the group. No one wanted that gift. What a wimpy gift. The gift of prophecy, or the gift of leadership, now those were gifts with muscle.
How wrong we were. Here was Chantal, with a biblical proportioned gift, who made the world kinder and smoother for those she came into contact with. When she brought us our bill I wanted to say something to her but everything that came to mind sounded goony. So instead I spoke to her manager, filled out a comment card and decided to write a blog about her.
I know that I do not have the gift of hospitality. But I'm glad that people do. I'm glad that Chantal does. Because, though she probably won't be remembered by many at that table, she made the day begin well for a group of people with disabilities. She bolstered the self confidence of some, the self esteem of others, God bless her.