The “Nice Ones” Are Easy To Love

Definitely Not Me!

I’ve blogged a few times about my Thursdays at Martins, the soup kitchen in San Francisco where I serve soup on Thursdays. It’s my favorite day of the week – my favorite mostly because it feels good to do good, but almost as much because of the personal learning that keeps happening for me there.

For context, when I ladle soup I like to greet every guest with a smile, eye contact, and a few friendly words.

You’re invited to listen in on this brief conversation, which took place a few weeks ago:

Me: “Welcome to Martins dear lady, we are happy to see you, how are you today?”
Guest: “I am not your dear lady. You don’t know me. Don’t call me dear lady, and how I am is none of your business.”
Me: “No problem, sorry about that, would you like some soup?”
Guest: “OF COURSE I want soup you f___ing a__hole! What the f__k do you think I came  here for?”
Me: “Here you are, enjoy. Please come back if you want seconds.”

Yikes! I do admit that inside, I first went to anger (not for long, but still, I did). That very first rush of feeling before intellect (the cavalry) arrives to rescue you, is where the work that we need to do on ourselves, really is. But anger passed pretty quickly and was replaced by astonishment, and puzzlement. How could I elicit such a violent response from someone who I was in the very act of feeding? “ I’m feeding her, for God’s sakes and she’s calling me a f___ing  a__hole?” It made no sense to me and I thought about it for quite a while.

Actually, something very similar happened to me again just last Thursday while I was carrying food for one of our wheelchair-bound guests to a nearby table.

Then, sweet Jane, my Martin’s buddy and “sister in soup”, offered these words of wisdom: “this stuff needs to happen to remind us that we’re not saints.” Indeed!

Not long after the “dear lady” incident, while walking with my beautiful friend Daigan, I described my perplexity as to what all that was about. His take? “Michael, this lady doubtlessly has a really shitty life. Your greeting, nice words, and happy smile served as a perfect lightning rod to remind her of all her troubles, and everything she doesn’t have.”

OF COURSE! Compassion – the most important element of all. He went there right away while I was still intellectualizing – still up in my head.  Remember the quote on the board in the office? “Perhaps it’s those who are the hardest to love who need it the most.”

I hadn’t been thinking about her life. I was thinking about mine. What I was, was expecting a smile and a thank you. I still have work to do. Jane’s right, sainthood still eludes me. Thank goodness for Martins and our guests.

Practice Tip Push PinPractice tip: So, I think that whenever we “give” or “offer”, or “do” something for someone else we need to learn to let go of it – completely. Only then is it really “freely offered.” Any expectation at all, of thanks or gratitude – is extra.

Even as small a thing as expecting acknowledgement when we greet someone in the street with a smile, is extra. It means that our greeting has not been freely offered. Learning to acknowledge and then let go of that mixture of disappointment, surprise, and even a little anger (admit it) when someone doesn’t return our greeting is a really good little exercise to begin to learn letting go.

Please, be kind to yourself


About Michael Scott

Michael Scott is a life coach, author and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending 35 years in business - coaching found him - and he's never looked back. Michael uses his coaching training and experience, in the service of his clients, as their constant and loving guide towards joyous, fulfilling lives which are genuinely their own. He lives with his dear wife in Sausalito, CA.

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