The world, much like your table at Benihana's, is filled with strangers. Every single one of these strangers has at least one (but likely more) interesting story to share. Every single one of these strangers has value. I'm not sure I believe in karma or fate; some things happen just because they happen. Some people you meet just because they are in the same place as you are at the same window of time. Make the most of that happenstance and get to know them. Get to know their story; listen to what they have to say. It will have value; if nothing else, an interesting story to hear, or perhaps something more.
I met a woman last week in Istanbul who fell off her three story rooftop while reaching to water her flowers. When she fell, the street dogs she lovingly takes care of surrounded her, and guarded her until caregivers could come and take her to the hospital. Upon her return, she said, the dogs wouldn't leave her side. This woman runs a unique restaurant off the main touristy area, on a quiet street, offering Iranian-Turkish food with a pencilled menu that changes each day. There is no bitterness in her story; she is grateful for every day. She shares her favorite (and last) bottle of wine with us, telling us about her wine-buying trip around the country; the wine we have in our glasses was her most preferred. We are her first customers on her second day back after her surgery (after her fall). She shares her two favorite cheeses with us, telling us about each is from a part of her: one is Iranian, the other Turkish, one cow milk, one goat. The boys pick their favorite from the mezze plate (spicy zucchini). She tells us about her restaurant with two kitchens, one on top, the other on the bottom. There is a bit of charming disorganization about the place; nothing smoothly oiled, yet each of the young women that work there clearly love their jobs, hurrying up and down the stairs, stepping over the dog lying at the door by the bottom step. We take care of each other, she says. We are a family.
We leave the restaurant full, having enjoyed foods we didn't even know existed. This memorable place, this noteworthy woman will likely be a part of our favorite evening. The benefit of meeting a stranger. I am struck by two things: her gratitude for life and her willingness to share it.
I want my boys to find value in those around us. The more we are able to find positive qualities in others - even perfect strangers - the more we value life. Finding value will help us be grateful for the beauty we see, the positive qualities we find, the good we discover. Okay, so there really is no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, but there are many many pockets of good.