‘Thank You.’ These may only be two little words, but they have the potential to express so much more than we may realize. They serve to affirm and value those whom we seek to thank for more than just services or goods provided. And in today’s busy, impatient and bustling world, I reckon there are times when we can all slow down, take a breath – and another moment to thank someone – for something given or done for us regardless of payment or otherwise…
Some months ago, my husband and I travelled up to Mallee country for a wedding. On the way home, we took a different route and wandered down towards home along side the Murray River. We stopped at a tiny place for brunch, where it did not take us to long to find a place to eat. On a lovely sunny morning, quite a sizeable group people sat outside the only café in this town, enjoying coffee and congenial company.
With no more outsides seats available, we proceeded inside to order and pay for our coffee and brunch ahead of sitting down beside front windows from where we could continue to observe the happy chatter of the outside group. Our order was a simple one of coffee and scrambled eggs for the two of us. The meal arrived really promptly and was served up to us by a silent but smiley little Vietnamese man, who placed our food in front of us, bowed then quickly disappeared. Now I like nothing more than for someone else to cook eggs for me, as I remain a pretty average cook, but on that morning in that tiny place on the Murray River, I was blown away with the quality of that breakfast! Our eggs were simply delicious! The best! They were light, fluffy, perfectly presented on crusty toast and flavoured to perfection with just the right amount of salt, pepper and chopped parsley sprinkled on top. I think these are just about the best eggs I have ever tasted. That’s a big call, but there it is!
After our meal and as we rose to leave, I commented to my husband that we need to thank the cook. So I walked back up through the café to the lady on the coffee machine. I asked if I could speak with the cook please? The lady looked alarmed.
“Why? Is there a problem?” she almost stammered.
“No no,” I assured her, “I just want to thank the cook for possibly the best scrambled eggs I have ever tasted.”
“Oh,” the lady smiled brightly. “That’s wonderful. That will be good for him to hear. He needs to hear that.”
And with that, she vanished through large doors that lead into the kitchen. A minute or so later, the gentleman who had served us appeared rather tentatively, and stood on the verge of bowing again. As I thanked him profusely for a wonderful breakfast, he straightened up before me and his face broke into the biggest smile I think I have ever seen. He seemed to glow from head and face down as he bowed again then strode back to his kitchen, basking in a renewed confidence. Behind him, the café lady thanked me for affirming him too.
Back in the car, I wondered about his journey from Vietnam to not just Australia, but how he came to be in this tiny Aussie place, and not in a bustling city with lots of fellow country-people around him? Immediately I recalled the wonderful artist/actor and comedian Ahn Do, whose biography, ‘The Happiest Refugee’ I have read with great enjoyment. And along the way, I acquired a new empathy and appreciation for the horrors endured by Vietnamese people who were forced to flee following the devastating civil war that decimated their country.
I recalled one story Ahn Do told of pirates who attacked the overcrowded and leaky boat in which they were desperately trying to get to Australia. These sea-faring thugs threatened the lives of all on board, as they demanded money, jewellery, watches and anything of value. Ahn Do’s 12-month-old baby brother was held up by his feet to be dangled over the dangerous and treacherous waters that swirled beneath as their parents were extorted for everything else they possessed, while a young Ahn Do cowered in fear at the bottom of the boat. Thankfully the baby was spared and returned to his parents. And we can rejoice in not only that baby being saved, but in the fact of that little one growing up to become many years later, a NSW Young Australian of the Year. A remarkable achievement indeed.
So, what was the journey of my breakfast cook? I will never know. But what I do know is that the journey cannot have been easy, or necessarily the desired one of anyone forced to leave the land of their birth. His face and demeanor spoke to me of hardship, sorrow and subservience until that moment when he smiled like a bright morning sunrise and stood tall to be appreciated and affirmed. Thanking someone doesn’t cost anything more than a split-second of thought and consideration and you just don’t know how much you can lift someone up, affirm, value them or simply lighten their day.
Glynis Dickins is an ordained Baptist minister who has served in a number of churches across the northeastern suburbs of Melbourne. She loves the multi-cultural nature of Melbourne and to meet with people from many backgrounds in churches and communities where she has served.