Walking Your Talk: How Do You Treat The Waitress?

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We once hosted a TV series in England called Chill Out.

One of our fellow TV presenters seriously upset the camera crew when they arrived at his house. He was rude and dismissive, essentially putting himself on a pedestal and treating them like lowly workers. Minutes later, when the camera was turned on, he became the perfectly smiling spiritual icon he was publicly known to be. But, as the crew told us later, he had already shown them how he did not walk his talk.

In contrast, Ed and our TV producer Jo were in London. Having just interviewed the Dalai Lama, they went into a small café. If you have ever been to London you know that in such cafés the tables are close to each other. Two well-dressed men sat down next to them, which effectively meant they were sharing the same table. Ed introduced himself as coming from the Bronx and one of the men said they were from South Africa. Quite spontaneously Ed then asked if they knew Nelson Mandela. The man pulled out his business card, which showed that his name was Jacob Zuma who, at the time, was President of the ANC but who is now President of South Africa. Ed gave him a book that we had written with contributions from President Gorbachev, the Dalai Lama, and Bishop Tutu. Jacob said the book would be in the hands of Nelson Mandela the following evening.

Usually, if you sit next to someone in a big city café, they do not even make eye contact, let alone conversation. Jacob had never met Ed before but treated him in a friendly, gracious manner. He could have been distant and polite, and he certainly did not have to maintain communication, which he did over the following few years. He even hugged Ed as they parted! In this way, Jacob displayed no sense of discrimination or elitism.

How we walk our talk shows far more than just our public behavior.

It highlights how we view the world and our place in it. From a Buddhist perspective, making friends with our world is an integral part of the path.

But not everyone thinks this way. A few days ago a friend was telling us that a business agreement she had been nurturing for over three years had abruptly come to an end. “He wanted to exclude me from part of the discussion, which I said wasn’t agreeable. So he said that was that, and he got up and left.”

Instead of being shattered after losing all the years of work, she felt relief. He had shown her his true colors. As she said, “He showed me how he treats the waitress.”

Many years ago we met with the Dalai Lama at his residence in India. While we waited for the meeting Ed was standing on the veranda, enjoying the beauty of the mountains stretching out in front of him, when he saw a monk at the far end of the veranda trying to get his attention.

He was beckoning for us to come. We thought he would bring us to our meeting but as we came closer to the monk we realized that he was the Dalai Lama. In traditional Buddhist custom, we immediately began to prostrate but he took our hands and lifted us up, saying, “No, no, we are all equal here.”

That teaching stayed with us. As Deb first thought:

Oh sure! You are the great Dalai Lama, spiritual leader to millions. How can we possibly be equal? But over the following months I felt his words in the core of my being and experienced the true equality he was referring to: the equality of our shared humanness and, simultaneously, our shared heart.

For Ed it was an equally significant moment as, from then on, barriers between people just seemed to drop away: It felt like a great relief. Like no one was more or less important. But it was actually a cellular experience: my whole view of life had changed forever. He realized that there is no difference between anyone. All people want a happy life, whether a doctor, a waitress, a king, a politician, or a bathroom attendant.

The Dalai Lama showed us how he treats a waitress—with the impartiality, consideration and respect that he treats all beings.

No matter who we are, whether a street cleaner or a president, we are all here together as one human family. We spent almost an hour with His Holiness and he made us feel as if he were our dearest friend.

That is called walking your talk!

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About Ed & Deb Shapiro

Ed & Deb Shapiro are the authors of new The Unexpected Power of Mindfulness & Meditation. Deb is the author of Your Body Speaks Your Mind, now in 19 languages. They have six meditation CDs. See more at their website.


17 Responses to “Walking Your Talk: How Do You Treat The Waitress?”

  1. Rob Thomas says:

    We have had the honor of hosting Ed and Deb at Gasoline Alley, Springfield MA. After they spent the night at my house. 12 hours together cemented a friendship that will last. Being able to drop pretenses and fully engage in the moment with whoever is in front of you is a lesson I constantly work to perfect! Thanks to the two of you! See you in Boulder in a few weeks.

    • Ed Shapiro says:

      Hey Rob soooooo happy to see you here- you are tour very first comment as Way put our blog up last night. Writing for da Elephant is a new happy event.

      So I guess you will be here for LOHAS and we will be PRESS

      It will be great to see you mate

      Love, Ed

  2. Charlotte says:

    Having put myself through college waiting tables in a restaurant and a bar, I learned how very hard that work is. Serving requires a nimble mind and a good short-term memory, and develops patience. Kind, appreciative customers mean so much to a busy server. All beings, regardless of their titles (which are impermanent), are worthy of respect and kindness.

    • Ed Shapiro says:

      Hi Charlotte – Thanks for your comment. I like what you say here and wish all customers could read what you say here in particular:
      "Kind, appreciative customers mean so much to a busy server. All beings, regardless of their titles (which are impermanent), are worthy of respect and kindness."

      Treasure yourself, Ed

  3. ARCreated says:

    I love this post…I can't say AMEN loud enough. I had to kind of giggle at the metaphor as when I was young and "dating' (UGH) I had two deal breaker litmus tests for dates: how they treated and tipped the server and whether they picked up their own trash at the end of the movie….No matter how someone "acted" or talked about themselves or what beliefs they professed, those two things would reveal their true colors. I remember seeing th dalai lama in Denver and thinking how "like me" he seemed and although at the time I didn't see it any deeper than in this physical being I have come to that cellular place as well. Like Charlotte I spent some time serving…I spent a lot of time in the business and my husband is still bartends – not only did it teach me patience but also acceptance and tolerance and best of all non-judgement …It was the first place that i gave people the "benefit of the doubt" and that has stead me well and has grown and evolved along with my spiritual understanding.
    In theatre we used to say there are no small roles only small people.

  4. Ed Shapiro says:

    Hi Elephant Community- This is our first article/blog for Elephant and we are honored to be part of this great Team! Cheers, Ed

  5. LasaraAllen says:

    Beautiful post, Ed and Deb.

    I love chance encounters like the one you talked about in the cafe in London. Moments like those, where we open ourselves to connection, can have (as was the case in your story) life-changing impact and importance. I am grateful for every such moment I have allowed for and chosen in my life.

    I am gently envious of your travels – the places you've been and beings you've met. But even more, I am grateful you are sharing these experiences with me. Thank you.

    Great to have you on board here at elephant! I look forward to reading more from you. 🙂


  6. Bud Wilson says:

    Hi Ed and Deb – Of course, your comments about all of us sharing "humanness" and being "equal" is especially relevant in view of the recent Chairman of BP suggesting that the company he directs cares about "small people". I'll grant him the excuse that as a Swede, English is his second language, however, the reaction to his comment has certainly touched a nerve. Robert Fuller's work on "rankism" has a lot to offer on this topic. The divide between the "haves" (big powerful people) and the "have nots" (the small powerless people) is growing. This separation of class points to a huge area of concern for our culture. Will we walk our talk and learn to equitably share the abundance of this precious planet? Continue to point the way!

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