When To Keep Your Mouth Shut
Make Your Life Matter No Matter What – When To Keep Your Mouth Shut
When I first saw her, I cringed. Hair dye gone bad…leathery skin from far too many exposures to a tanning bed…white strapless top meant for someone half her age. She complimented every bite of her meal with audible commentary.
“The reduction. The cheese. It’s just fantastic,” she quipped to the waiter. “Could I have another glass of wine?”
Great, I thought. Here I am trying to enjoy a Sunday evening dinner out with my hubby to celebrate our 23rd anniversary, and there’s a third wheel. A loud, attention-seeking, slightly inebriated wheel.
She stared blankly out the large front window of Kybecca’s at the passerby’s on the downtown street. Against the backdrop of misty rain and overcast skies, the loneliness was palpable.
“She reminds me of the Beatles song,” I haphazardly spoke into the air.
“Which one?” my husband inquired.
“You know…the one where she leaves her face in a jar by the door…” my voice trailed off as I let the moment sink in.
“Stop staring,” my husband scolded.
Honestly, I didn’t realize I was. I was just, I don’t know, uncomfortable. And slightly annoyed. My mind struggled to focus as I re-read the menu a few times.
Ugh, I thought. She’s ordering dessert. And another glass of wine. What is this, her fourth? She’s getting louder and more obnoxious with every course.
“Honey, what are you ordering? Come on.” My husband’s voice grew stern as I struggled to redirect my energies off of the lonely hearts club woman and onto my husband. I bristled at her awkward attempts to start conversations with waiters on the other side of the room.
I fumbled for my phone to text my daughter, Gabrielle. “Gab…this lady is in here by herself in a strapless shirt and she’s too old for it and weird and drinking too much and talking to herself talking at the top of her lungs.”
And I was close. Close to saying something.
Perhaps someone should tell her she’s had enough. Maybe I should let my waiter know that she’s disturbing our anniversary dinner.
And then I just got sad. Really, really sad, that someone was so desperately alone, so needy for attention, so conspicuously lonely. The sting of shame flushed my face as I watched our waiter serve her.
Hmmm, they seem awfully jovial. Maybe she comes here a lot.
“Here, wrap up this dessert,” she glibly barked at him.
“Don’t you want to finish it?” he asked.
“No, you take it home. I don’t want all that sugar in my house.”
Take it home? Why are you asking your waiter to take it home?
My jumbled thoughts fought for order as he brought back her check.
“Thanks for coming in tonight, Mom. It was great to see you.”
Mom? Mom. This woman is his mom. She came to sit and be with her son. She came to enjoy a meal at the place he works and convey the joy she savored in every bite. She came to not be alone.
“Oh my word, Dale. She’s his mom. Thank GOD I didn’t say anything to him.”
I picked up my phone and slowly texted my daughter back. “We just realized this lady is the waiter’s mom. Thank GOD I didn’t say anything. She was here by herself to support her son.”
“Yeah exactly. You never, never know.”
“I’m going to write about this, Gab. When to keep your mouth shut.”
“Always keep your mouth shut,” she wrote back.
“Yeah, but sometimes you need to speak up – to advocate – to be a voice.”
“But in a positive, uplifting way.”
Lesson learned over paella and scallops. Who am I to judge, to have a word with the manager, to apologize to the waiter for the unruly behavior of a patron? Who am I to allow my quest for an uninterrupted evening blur my vision of someone else’s pain? Who am I to speak when I need to keep my mouth shut?
I’m a work in progress, folks. I’m far too quick to speak when I should be silent. I shudder at the thought of what that gentle, 21 year old waiter might have felt had I said something not so nice about his mom. I have a lump in my throat just thinking about it.
I don’t know her story, but tonight she was written into mine.
If we want to “Make Our Lives Matter No Matter What,” we need to set aside our agenda and convenience and know when to keep our mouths shut. We need to see far more than leathery skin and hollow eyes. We need to see a mom. A son. A story that’s worth telling because it’s a story God is writing.
I won’t soon forget this anniversary dinner; not because I watched a glorious sunset or beheld a spectacular view. It was because I saw a mom and a son, and my not-so-flattering reflection in their mirror. This week, let’s keep our eyes open for any opportunity to keep our mouths shut. And when they’re open, let it be to lift someone up and offer hope.
I’m leaving you with the prayer of my heart tonight…
“Jesus, help me to see what You see. Help me to speak Your words. Help me to keep my mouth shut and my eyes open to bring light into lonely places. Forgive me for judging and putting my needs ahead of someone else. Thank you for reminding me that people matter most.”
Make Your Life Matter No Matter What