The Transformative Power of Grace & Gratitude: and a remarkable surprise in an El Paso Restaurant
It had been a beautiful day in El Paso. The sun was just beginning to set, and we were ready for dinner. The restaurant which had been highly recommended was only about 15 minutes from where we were, and we found it without any problem.
The staff was quite friendly and attentive. The colorful surroundings were authentic, attractive and comfortable. After ordering beverages and guacamole, but before studying the menu, a small white card caught my eye. About 3x4, it was printed and placed in the center of the table, atop a table tent holder. The heading read, SE LO DEBEMOS TODO A EL, followed by three paragraphs also in Spanish. On the reverse side it said, WE OWE IT TO HIM, followed by this text: “Everything we use and consume in our daily lives is a gift from God. Let us show our gratitude and acknowledge this fact today and every following day. Before partaking of this food, let us each bow our head and give thanks…for the blessings we have.” This is followed by a suggested thanksgiving. Then it is written, “You may take this card.” Which I did. And at the bottom of the small printed placard it says, “We would like to pray with you – ask for Francisco, Ana or Maria.”
Dining out is something I have done countless times and continue to do, now usually a couple of times a week. Daily lunches out when I held various leadership positions were an integral part of “doing business.” And having a generous expense account was a further indication that this was an expected part of the job. Dinners out are sometimes a necessity or convenience, as well as often being an enjoyable way to see and spend time with friends, and partake of a variety of marvelous cuisines. Gathering at table is rich with symbolism and meaning and is highly ritualized in various faith traditions; in our culture it is a commonly recognized form of fellowship and getting together; and certainly traditional in many families in celebration of particular holidays.
I have eaten in myriad restaurants in different villages, towns and cities, in numerous states and several countries. From the most primitive setting under a tarp and a tree; to a converted garage with old metal tables and chairs and plastic silverware; to Four Star and Five Diamond restaurants with tables draped in white linen and more utensils than I knew what to do with. And I always say “grace;” always give thanks and ask for God’s blessing upon the meal, the hands that prepared it, and the company.
But until Julio’s Café Corona, I have never had anyone associated with the restaurant express the desire to pray with me. It was, as they say, something else. Something other and altogether moving; a remarkable surprise. To me it seemed a natural, albeit highly unusual, extension of the spirit of hospitality which is a hallmark of all good restaurateurs. And while I didn’t ask for Francisco, Ana or Maria, during my prayer I gave thanks for them and this restaurant, and the unique gesture contained in that printed card displayed atop the table where we sat and enjoyed some delicious Mexican food. And I eat lots and lots of Mexican food and have many favored spots. A wonderful friend of mine has a t-shirt that says, “Powered by Pintos” and every time he wears it around me, I wish I had one like it.
Feelings of gratitude are indeed positive and uplifting, and giving thanks is a powerful act. While I am a grateful person and often ponder the meaning of the admonition to “give thanks in all things,” I found the experience at Julio’s as surprising as it was moving. As we were preparing to leave, I held up the card, told our server I was going to take it and thanked him for it. He warmly affirmed my taking it, and then he thanked me. He thanked me for receiving and appreciating what was offered! I once wrote that, “A grateful heart is a generous heart.” It is true. A key dynamic associated with gratitude has to do with what happens to the giver.
Having spent many years in both philanthropy and non-profit services has taught me a lot about the human heart, or human nature. I remember a lunch meeting with a major donor and his wife, who had contributed a great deal of money to the agency of which I was then executive director. They had just given a six-figure gift to my agency, and I was expressing deep gratitude to them on behalf of my Board of Directors, the recipients of the services we provided, and myself. They were exceedingly gracious about their generosity. But what struck me about our interaction was how they repeatedly thanked me. And remarkably, this was something that would be repeated whenever we met thereafter. There is an African proverb, “If you have much, give from your wealth; if you have little, give from your heart.” I have often said that this wonderful couple did both.
Giving truly does do something wonderful and transformative to the giver: whether the giving is a mental acknowledgement, such as saying grace or prayerfully expressing another kind of gratefulness; or material, such as a donation or another form of gift. When we give thanks, something transcendent happens through the power of grateful acknowledgement. It truly does work that way, by design. There is a unique marshalling of potent universal energy when expressing our gratitude, because it connects us with the Divine in an intentional and focused way; and the more we are grateful, the more we will heighten our awareness and the more we will receive.
As Jack Canfield says, “The more grateful you are, the more you’ll be given to be grateful for.”
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