Sunday, August 21, 2011

In Better Shape

“Leave this place in better shape than you found it.”

The Campers’ Credo is often repeated as a reminder to clean up before leaving the campsite and even, when possible, to do something that improves the condition of the area like moving a fallen tree from the path or throwing away trash left behind by a careless visitor.  

It’s a great idea for making things more pleasant and, in some cases, safer for future users, a tangible way of paying it forward.

My husband, my children, and I went on a trip this weekend and happened to drive past the exit on the interstate that lead to a place where my dad used to work many years ago.  At the Truck Stop at this exit is a diner-style restaurant where my dad ate lunch several times a week in the time that he worked in that neck of the woods.  I was away at college during that time, but at one point I was home for a visit and met my dad at that Truck Stop for lunch. 

About 90 seconds after Dad and I sat down at the table in the restaurant that day, the waitress brought over unsweetened ice tea and a salad with fat-free Italian dressing and set them in front of Dad.  Evidently, he ate there so often and always ordered the same thing every time, and so she could start getting his order ready as soon as she saw him walk through the door.  Dad introduced me to the waitress, and then he told me her story, including her kids’ ages and what her husband did for a living.  He asked her how the repairs to her kitchen were coming along and if her kids were adjusting well to the routine of the new school year, and she filled him in on those details.  The waitress took our orders – well, actually, just mine, since she already knew that Dad wanted a turkey sandwich on wheat bread, with mustard but no mayo or cheese – and went to put our order in.  The whole exchange took less than 3 minutes, but she seemed to walk away smiling a little more brightly.

That, in a nutshell, was who my dad was, a person who impacted everyone with whom he came into contact, through genuineness and kindness and who, as a result, left this place (and the people in it) in better shape than he found it.  

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