It was one of those trendy restaurants that can be found in most any city, and in larger cities there may be many of them. It was not a chain and not ritzy, but the kind of place where business people gather and clients meet vendors. I visit numerous such places each year when I am on the road. They are attractive, somewhat quiet, and the food is predictably good.
I was in Atlanta to deliver a keynote speech to a very fine association. I checked into the hotel and decided to go for a walk and find a predictably good place to eat. I found one such place, and a delightful server seated me in a booth.
Over at the bar was a group of young co-workers drinking various concoctions and laughing at each other’s stories. Some of the tables were filled with serious-looking executives talking about strategies and ideas to grow their respective businesses.
As I was looking over the menu with its predictable enough selections, a mature couple in their mid-sixties had walked into the restaurant.
They were not in the restaurant to drink Cosmos or Russian Mules (the new trendy drink) or to have a client meeting. He was dressed in his best blue suit with a pin in the lapel, and she was wearing a well-cared-for, carefully ironed dress. Going into that restaurant was an act of intention; they were “stepping out,” as people used to say. The meal was an occasion. They were ushered to the booth behind me. The air filled with her Avon perfume (my mother’s scent). I did note one other thing about him: his hands. He had the hands of a working man. Oh, they were spotlessly clean, all right, but they were unmistakable with their shape and scars.
I must admit that I was eavesdropping, but since I was on a speaking tour “just passing through,” and they were complete strangers, I’ll just call it “divine provision” to be seated there.
“Is this place OK?” he asked. “I don’t know much about this stuff.” His voice was gruff, undoubtedly formed from years of barking orders on job sites, but in talking to the woman, it was as soft and as caring as he could make it.
“I think it’s the most beautiful place,” she said. “It’s very beautiful.” Her inflection was unmistakable. She meant it, then added, “I hope it’s not too expensive.”
“It’s worth it for what you do for me,” he said.
Because of that simple exchange of humility and then his wishing her a Happy Anniversary, my heart melted.
He asked her about her day. She said there were lots of orders and paperwork they had piled on her. There was a co-worker who lately has been “snippy” to just about everyone in the office, that Betty Adler called to thank them for the BBQ, and the pastor’s secretary appreciated her for helping out the other day.
“How was your day, today?” she asked.
He said the roofing job was almost done and they got a few more calls after the storm. It looks like they’ll be busy, thank God. He ordered some tickets to a hockey game on November 29th, good seats. He looked forward to taking their nephews. Then he laughed, “Of course, at 9:55 I called to tell you I loved you.”
There was a pause. She said, “I know, you were 10 minutes late today. I love you, too.”
Through Simplicity Comes Great Beauty
In that simple conversation, filled with love and gratitude, they elevated the predictable eatery into a complete dining experience.
What struck me about the discussion was that the husband made a point of stopping all of the clutter of the day, minor details no one cares about or remembers, and made a point of expressing his love. His wife, in turn, stopped and realized at that moment what he said to her most every day of their lives.
They didn’t appear to be wealthy people, and I know nothing else about their lives. Were they married for many years or remarried, or found love late in life? I cannot say. What I do know is that love and companionship were important to them – and they were not afraid to express it.
As I write this article, I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the restaurant. I suppose I could find it among my receipts, but that is not the point. The couple in the next booth will always remember it. The most common experiences are elevated by love, even the tiny act of calling someone in the middle of the day to remind them that you love them. If you want to elevate your day, simply express your feelings for someone close to you. It requires no cash, credit or gift cards, just an honest and open heart.
The greatest luxury in life is simplicity.