His mask hid the expression on his face, but I could see his tired eyes as he took my order. The skin bowled underneath, the lids half-way covering his eyes. His arm made jerking movements as he scooped over the toppings I requested for my salad. He moved quickly as if he had something else to do.
While I waited for the salmon to cook, I put my credit card on the register. In a few minutes, he topped the overflowing bowl of lettuce, strawberries, olives, and avocado with a tenderly cooked piece of fish.
“Oh, that salmon looks like it is cooked perfectly.” I said wanting him to know I was pleased and grateful for his preparation. I don’t enjoy salmon as much when it’s dry and firm. I like to affirm good service when offered.
Not pausing to look up or respond to my comment, he snapped the plastic lid onto my to-go order.
“Where is your card?” he asked. I smiled and pointed to the side of the register.
Seeming embarrassed he said, “I’m out of sorts today.” He reached for my card and slid it through. I wondered what made him out of sorts – something at work, something at home, a health condition.
“I’m so sorry” I said, maintaining eye contact. I had sensed something was wrong the minute I saw him. Now my heart filled with compassion for this tired person who was serving me. He handed me my salad and credit card, and I could see his face relax and soften. I was thankful he could hear what I said behind my mask which often muffles sound and can make conversation hard to understand.
“I hope your day gets better.” I said looking at him once again before I turned to leave.
When he shared with me that he was out of sorts, I felt glad to be interacting with someone who was willing to be honest and open about how he was actually doing. Most of the time when I am out of sorts, I keep my feelings to myself.
This restaurant worker revealed to me a part of the human condition. Feeling out of sorts is not uncommon in these days of covid recovery, getting vaccines, and businesses trying to rebound as people are getting out more. Although my exchange with him was brief, I was honored that this person shared with me, a complete stranger, what he was feeling.
Each day I offer a prayer that I can be a vessel of God’s love wherever I go. That prayer was answered in the short time that this man and I shared space.