What Are You Bringing to The Table?

Jul 31, 2022

What’s beneath the bad mood? A little empathy can go a long way to break a negative cycle



Phew. It’s been a HOT one here in the Catskill Mountains lately…and in many parts of the world as well. We’ve been working hard to stay cool by jumping in local streams and moving more slowly. 

But I’ve noticed something else. It’s not just the temperatures that have risen, I’ve witnessed tempers and impatience rise too. I’m a quiet observer of people — it’s what I do. And as one who works in the service industry, it’s a tool that has served me well — and taught me a lot about navigating life too. So much so that I want to share this with you, beloved community.

You see, it’s hard not to take things personally. When a customer is rude (which doesn’t happen very often because we have the BEST customers in the world…wink), but when it does, I’ve learned a great skill. I pause, take a deep breath, remind myself it isn’t about me, and I try to access my heart to help me with the encounter.

Hey, there are times we all get impatient, we aren’t our best selves and we say and behave in ways that we normally wouldn’t. That’s the space where things don’t roll off our backs and we react in regrettable ways. Cue the apology.

The worst part is that from that footing we often perpetuate the cycle and drag others in. Case in point: A frustrated customer who is overheated, stressed and upset about something completely unrelated to the café can take it out on a server who in turn responds by feeling insulted and upset and now the party of 1 has become that of 2 and so on and so on. Then who knows how far those bad vibes can spread! 

As easily as a joyous person greeting you with a bright, beaming, sunshiney smile and tight embrace can uplift your day — the energy of negativity can envelope and pull you down equally as fast. We all get triggered at times and can be sucked up in heat of the moment, but it’s what we do with it that matters most. 

Maybe it’s age or just a lot of experience, but I think I’m onto something here. 9 out of 10 times when I approach a table where I can feel the heavy energy a mile away…I take a quick inventory. When I come forth with patience and empathy, it’s almost as if an exhale ensues for all.

Beneath most ‘bad’ behavior is pain and suffering. It actually takes very little for someone to suddenly start sharing how they had just received terrible news, or lost a job or friend, family member or beloved pet.

We cannot avoid life’s suffering, but we can change how we dance with it.

When we break through, it connects us in a way that allows us to let it go and no longer suffer in silence. I’m in no way excusing rude behavior — and sometimes there is no way to penetrate a dark cloud. It’s not about being a doormat, it’s about being a human being.

We’ve all been there on both sides. We just need to remember that and I have to tell you…most of the time there is a way to shift the mood. And it’s simple and it comes from the heart and it nourishes all involved.

I think about human nature a lot, asking myself how do we break the cycle of insults, ego and triggers — and allowing our emotions to come out sideways? With ourselves, of course — and being aware of how we approach the table of life. 

I win when I avoid conflict and when I can connect with someone who is having a hard time…better yet, when we can shift it together. Then we all win! Just some food for thought from my heart to yours.

How are you approaching the table of life?

Here’s to winning and connecting and loving and nurturing…and staying cool. Happy August, beloveds!

—Lea Haas, Owner, The Garden Cafe Woodstock


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