Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness (c)2014 Nancy Virden
Bertuccis’ pizza restaurant will never be the same for me.
A local favorite in southeastern Pennsylvania, one could stop by for fire baked pizzas with a gathering of friends or grab a few Tuscan wings on the go. During my six years in the area, I did both.
One afternoon, a young host greeted me with slight hesitancy before he smiled and warmly took me to my table. I thought, what a nice, shy young man.
He sat me in the back of the restaurant facing a wall. It seemed strange because smaller tables in the open central area were available. His eye contact was intentional, not the obligatory kind, when he smiled and said, “Have a good lunch, Ma’am.”
I thought, he is sincere! How nice!
Another young adult came by to take my order. I was texting, and apologized for not being ready.
“It’s no problem,” he said. However, it was the way he said it. I thought, Bertuccis has hired a great crew.
He paid unusually careful attention to me. After ordering Tuscan wings, a salad, and a box, he hung around an extra moment and asked twice if I needed anything, “anything at all?”
My bill was shy of ten dollars. Placing twenty in the folder he provided and expecting change, I took advantage of the wait to freshen up in the ladies room.
There, I stared at the mirror, face reddening in embarrassment. Desperate ideas for saving my pride failed to present a viable escape. No option was left but to laugh!
A few minutes before arriving at the restaurant, life’s stresses had broken out into a brief flood of tears. In turn, mascara painted my cheeks in streams. An attempt at wiping tears away made it look as if I had black eyes!
Immediately, the extra nice service, warm looks, and added, “anything at all?” made more sense. No wonder I’d been seated in a private area! This time, it was laughter making me cry.
Considering I would have paid anyone ten dollars to get me out of there, sight unseen, the choice to not return to my table for change was an easy one. Face washed and head down, the trip to the door seemed unending. Finally, I stepped outside having left a 110% tip. Good thing Bertuccis isn’t a five-star restaurant.
This story gently and humorously reminds me to not make assumptions based on superficial evidence. If Bertuccis employees guessed I was sad, they were right. If they feared I’d been punched in the eyes, they were incorrect. Of course, there is no way of knowing what they thought.
For those who live with a mental disorder or illness, addiction, and/or abuse, the danger of assumption is two-fold:
- We who are mind-reading and guessing do not learn anything.
- The one who is judged superficially is harmed by unmet actual needs (and gossip in many cases!)
The solution is to ask questions. For our loved ones who struggle with mental illnesses or situations that confuse us, a simple “Will you help me understand?” makes a positive difference.
Today’s Helpful Word
“[Hagar] gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me…’ (Hagar had been abused and left to die with her son in the desert, but God never left her.)
NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from my experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
*wings picture by TOME213; sky by REFRI – both from rgbstock.com