Thank You for Busboys

Karen Kenworthy

There was giving
in inverse proportion
that day when I made sure
I would consciously do two
loving acts

My actions were smaller than I had
Envisioned

First I sipped every spoonful…
my tomato soup as warm
and spicy as
the panel presentation
I listened to while eating
at my adored
cafe/bookstore and community gathering place
“Busboys and Poets”

Owned by Andy Shallal
man of pure heart

man of Iraqi heritage here in DC
to change the world to love…
and to bring us together in diversity
and he is changing D.C.

His place on 14th and V
Is where I eat
read
and attend lectures and events
as if I were back at university

I am neither a busboy
nor a poet now

I dabble in poetry indulgently
And I did bus my own tables
at Gifford’s Ice Cream parlor
at eighteen with stains
covering my uniform
and so privileged and so unaware

Then came my first glimmer of class and labor awareness when
the oldest waitress
from whom I learned…
a single mother of two…
didn’t go out partying
with the rest of us

we spent our tip money
socializing after work
she needed hers for food
for her kids
and rent for her trailer
Her name is ingrained
still in my soul
Charlotte…

and how I blushed when she said
I was a good waitress
when it was her profession
and in the following
forty- three years
I have never forgotten
her hard life and her lessons
which become always stronger
in my consciousness

Lessons in my face
profound as the class in urban sociology
I later took at university

On my day of giving two acts
when I listened to a panel
on student activism
on campuses
I kept watching my waiter
and gave him
a much larger tip
than I normally would have

And my second giving act
was to look at every person
I passed
– really look –
to see
if there was anything they looked like
they needed from me somehow
and I warmed to the young man
sitting alone beside me at Busboys
and we talked about his
theories
and I counted that
as my second act

And what a pittance of giving
in contrast to what I was given
in a day of
inverse equation

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