I just came back from a vacation with my daughter to Japan. It was her graduation present. She graduated 2 years ago but better late than never. It took me that long to stop nixing all of her choices. We finally agreed on Japan. Fast forward, even though I had set low expectations, I had a great adventure.
My favorite experience was when we walked into a restaurant in Kyoto thinking it was a different one. It was nondescript. It was a tiny sushi restaurant with just a counter and 3 patrons. When we walked in, the kindly looking older sushi chef and his assistant had a look of fear on their face. We were about to turn around when the nice couple from Seattle sitting at the counter stopped us. They explained that the chef’s fear was that they didn’t speak a word of English and it had taken them 20 minutes to decipher how their restaurant worked. My daughter was all gung-ho to stay. Not so much me.
Full disclosure….I eat like a kid. Sushi has never been my thing. I’ve gotten away with this as an adult so far. Yet, I saw that I was about to be called out. The couple said this restaurant came highly recommended by a friend. I was being triple dog dared. My daughter talked me into staying (ok, belittled me into staying). It didn’t end there. My daughter enthusiastically shared my lack of adventure in eating with the Seattle couple so they decided to stay and watch me eat. (No pressure)
Long story short, I ate the chef’s choice (minus the sea urchin which no one on earth should have to eat that)… (if I offended any sea urchin lovers please forgive). It was an adventure and I am still standing. It wasn’t the best meal of my life but it was well done and beautifully prepared. So let me get to the other half of my story.
While I was freaking out about the sushi, it was obvious that the chef and his assistant were freaked out about us. The restaurant didn’t have much signage and I’m guessing that their clientele are mostly locals. The chef was this kind older man. It was obvious that he took care and great pride in his preparation of the sushi.
This was not our first meal in Japan but we pulled out our dictionary at the end of the meal and told him in Japanese that “It was delicious”. OMG… The reaction we received was amazing. Now maybe they lit up because I said something funny but after many words between them, they came out from behind the counter and presented my daughter and I with a gift of two handkerchiefs. The chef had a huge smile and kept bowing to us (a sign of respect). He was genuinely thrilled by our compliment. And here’s the thing….it didn’t take any effort. It was easy. We gave him a genuine compliment given the love and care he put into preparing our meal. 3 words turned a concerned face into one of joy. So much that he followed us out of the restaurant and we continued to bow to each other. A small moment made that meal one of the more special moments of our trip.
There are times I realize that I neglect to properly acknowledge the work that people around me do. I say thank you but don’t go beyond.
So this little lesson about a Japanese sushi chef, reminded me of the power of words. Most people are so busy that they forget to thank someone for putting in a little extra effort. It’s a simple lesson that we should all remember now and again. So reach out today to someone you work with or works for you and find something nice to say. Make sure it’s genuine. Look for those things that you always assume will get done since “that’s their thing.” Those kind words will go a long way.
P.S. Thanks for reading this!