The other day, I went out to a nearby restaurant for lunch. I perused the dining area, looking for a table away from others, particularly any parties who might be noisy. But I also needed good lighting, as I planned on revising a chapter of my novel while I ate. I finally settled on a table with good overhead lighting, set down my food, and dug out my notebook.
One table away sat a young man and his two daughters, enjoying their pasta and drinks. They chatted easily, and for the most part, quietly. When their voices threatened to rise, he would gently hush them, and then remind them that they were in a restaurant, and must keep their voices down. At one point he looked over at me and said, “I’m sorry if we’re a little noisy today.”
Going out to a restaurant can break the routine, and get me working again when I might otherwise get distracted with other tasks, or decide that I simply need a break. But this tactic will backfire if the restaurant is noisy, or if my mind decides to follow a nearby conversation instead of concentrating on my prose. Most annoying of all is parents who let their children yell or scream, and expect others to tolerate such unnecessary outbursts. Often, these parents seem so professional and refined. They dress well, wear convention attire, and act in all other ways like respectable members of society. Yet they think nothing of invading the airspace (and therefore the thoughts and concentration) of others.
With his shaved head, tattoos, and numerous earrings, this young man hardly projected an image of refinement. But due to his efforts, his girls’ voices had not disturbed my concentration. I told him not to worry, and observed that his girls seemed to be enjoying themselves. We chatted for a few minutes, and he explained that this was one of their favorite places to eat. Then I returned my attention to my work, and he to his girls.
When his girls had finished eating, he loaded them into his double stroller, and in quiet, lilting tones reminded them of the errands ahead. As he left the dining area, it struck me how, while others might not judge him respectable, he had been respectful and considerate of others. I, for one, was grateful to him for that.
While one’s eye is automatically drawn to the shiny, golden robot C-3PO in “Star Wars,” one quickly learns how bossy and dismissive he is of his friend R2-D2. Worse, he seems to worry all the time, and foresees only the worst eventuality of any particular event. It would be easy to dismiss his role in the film as comic relief, but C-3PO emerges as a loyal friend at the end of the film. After R2-D2 suffers significant injury, C-3PO pleads with the droid technicians, “Sir, if any of my circuits or gears will help, I’ll gladly donate them!” This, from one who had earlier abandoned his friend in the desert, and later, after they had reunited, told him, “No, I don’t like you either.”
People are always more than they appear. Sometimes, if we give them a chance, they will surprise us. In the aftermath of the recent election, many worry about those who will soon take office, and how they will be affected not only by new administrations, but also by the implementation of the propositions that won. I decided to write this post because I want to remember this young man, whom many might have dismissed because of his appearance. Instead of declaring my unwillingness to follow our new leaders, or deciding to frustrate their efforts and work to overturn any laws they enact, I also want to remember C-3PO’s example. He may not be the wisest, or the most respectable person in the Star Wars universe, but his words, at least in that one moment, inspire me.
“Sir, if any of my circuits or gears will help, I’ll gladly donate them.”