The Discount that Doesn’t Count
I learned a lesson from Honduras that arose in my deep thoughts a few days ago. It was one of those typical “mother days”. I spent much of my time preparing food. (Is it lost on anyone that it can take hours to prepare a meal that is consumed in a fraction of the time it took to make it?) As a homeschool mom, I had motivated my children to do their daily study. I had cleaned the kitchen (so my son whose job it is could use his time on school work). I got laundry going (so my other son, whose job it is could work on his school work.) I drove my son to track practice and waited 90 minutes in the car. I called a friend that I had not talked to in a long while. I kept wanting to get to writing, but the end of the day came and I had not sat down to do it. In my mind, I thought, “What have I done all day? I didn’t accomplish anything!” So many days I feel like that. Then the thought rose in me for the first time ever. “Why is it that, with all the things you did today, you think it doesn’t count?” What counts?
I’m a shopper that loves a discount, but it hit me that, on a subconscious level, I have been discounting myself!
Flash back to the first night in Honduras. The staff had stayed late awaiting our arrival. We were served at meal at 10 pm. They brought us “a little meal”. I was expecting a snack. The first course (of three) was carrot-ginger soup. “Gracias” I said as it was placed in front of me. “A la orden” was the response. I had never heard that version of “you’re welcome” in Spanish. “A la orden” was always the response at the Hacienda San Lucas.
I translated in my mind and later for other people. Literally, it means “to the order”. The spirit of it is “as you wish” or “at your service”. Kim said that once she had a service job and was instructed to always respond to a thank you with the phrase, “It’s my pleasure”. That is also a good translation for “a la orden”.
I then started to wonder if using this phrase was a regionalism or if it had been “trained” for this staff? It doesn’t matter, really, but I came to learn from Paola that Flavia had patiently trained her staff over time not just to use the phrase “a la orden”, but to nurture the spirit of it. It is the spirit of true service. I really felt like royalty. There was nothing we could ask that was too hard or too much. It was healing to bask in the spirit of “a la orden”.
I was sitting next to Lacy at dinner one evening when she ordered fresh jugo (juice) de Papaya with vodka. Our server got a funny look on her face like, “that is the craziest combination I have ever heard of.” But out of her mouth came “a la orden” and she went to get it. Those of us that witnessed it couldn’t help laughing. Her facial expression had betrayed her, but there was no judgment in it.
The spirit of “a la orden” played out right to the last morning. Nikki and I had lingered in our yoga practice and arrived at breakfast as most were finishing up. Paola was at the table with us. She had come to see that we got off and to say goodbye. There were some French fries on the table. We late-comers passed them around. They were amazing!
One of our server-friends stood by to find out what we wanted for our last breakfast. Nikki asked for eggs with vegetables with specific veggies and toast and then, only half joking, some of those fries! The server repeated back what she understood. As our server left, Paola said to Nikki, “Do you want French toast or regular toast?” Nikki, not wanting to be fastidious, said it would be great no matter what came out of the kitchen, but Paola wanted her to get what she really wanted and went to the kitchen to make sure they got the right thing.
When her breakfast arrived exactly as she had wanted it, tears sprung from her eyes. I knew they were tears of deep gratitude and appreciation. Never had anyone showed such tender care to this degree. It made the heart swell up.
One morning I was on the porch by my room while the staff was cleaning the room. One of the girls had the job of arranging fresh flowers picked from the tropical plants that grew on the property. There was one leaf I had noticed the first day in arrangements. It looked like the leaves had been torn and I had imagined someone taking the care to carefully tear leaves for the arrangement. I saw some of those leaves in the flower arrangement she was working on and asked her if she had torn the leaf.
“No. It grows that way. Let me show you.”
I followed her a few feet off the porch where she walked to a tree-sized plant. Sure enough, there was a whole tree full of those interesting leaves. She picked a few more while we stood there. It was a simple question and a simple offer to show me the plant, but in it was the spirit of “a la orden”. The task of arranging flowers was a joy to her. Someone taking interest in a job that might seem like “It doesn’t count” brought joy to us both.
I doubt anyone says anything to her, or the other staff members about appreciating that they cleaned the room, or cooked the food, or washed the sheets. They were doing most of these tasks when we weren’t around. Nevertheless, the spirit of “a la orden” infused each task and I could feel it even when they were not visible.
Back to my day in Kansas City where I noticed how many times I did similar simple tasks and convinced myself that “it doesn’t count”. How can I do them with a spirit of “a la orden” and find joy and happiness in the simple, common and small daily tasks of my life?
My kids have a habit of asking every day, “What are we doing today, Mom?” Translation, “Do we have to do our school work? Isn’t there something exciting on the agenda today?” When I respond, “We get to do school work today! We can’t have big plans every day, or we would never get school work done.” This is followed by groans and complaints. Then I heard this come out of my mouth:
“We need to be happy with the simple, common and small. If we have to wait for the spectacular before we are happy, then happiness will be rare!”
It was later in the day when I monitored my own thoughts that I realized that “mom-lecture” was for ME—the mom! I had, once again, made food, cleaned the kitchen and encouraged (grumpy) kids to do schoolwork. I fed oatmeal to Sister missionaries that had come over to borrow our washer and drier to clean their clothes. It was now after lunch and I had given (free) haircuts to two Elders (missionaries serving in my area) and to one of my sons. It was as I was sweeping up hair that I felt grumpy about “not getting anything important done today”. I had, again, discounted the common and small tasks in my day. I had served, but not in the spirit of “a la orden”.
Look at that! Another opportunity to forgive and love myself—a life-long and ongoing practice. As I grabbed hold of that thought of forgiveness and love, the spirt of “a la orden” entered in.
Ps… for some reason, in my mind, writing a blog post counts. Whew!