Words Unspoken

Yesterday, as I was waiting on customers, a woman in a hijab came through my line. I asked her to wait a moment so I could finish up with my current customer. Before I grabbed a pair of gloves I said,

“Before I start, I have a question for you.” I’m not sure what went through her mind in that split second, but I know the look on her face was unsure and borderline scared. “The lady before you had a ham sandwich-would you like me to get new knives?”

Her face immediately lit up-and all fear was gone. “Yes please, that would be great.”

So I go to the back and grab new knives, put on a fresh pair of gloves and make sure that I made their food without contaminating it. I made sure they knew when I switched stations that it was a new knife there as well-just in case they hadn’t seen me set it on fresh wrapper. When I rang her out, she said

“I just wanted to say thank you. It’s very rare to find anyone who will accommodate us.”

A million things ran through my mind to say, but all that came out was “It’s no problem at all.” You see, what I wish I had said was:

I’m so sorry that it’s rare to be treated as a human being, with equality and kindness. I’m not an expert at much, but I know that getting between you and your god isn’t going to do me any favors with me and mine, and it just makes me an asshole. If taking five seconds out of my day to get extra knives means that you can find peace at the end of your life, then I am so happy it was me you got as your server tonight. I know the media sees you and your religion as a threat, but I see you as people. I know you just wanted a sandwich and I want you to know that I did my best. I want you to know that it’s never an inconvenience to be a decent person-because I know the power of kindness. And I want you to know that just as Da-esh does not represent you in any way, so too am I not represented by the man who holds the title of president and his racist allies.

I wish I’d told you about how I went to a Ramadan feast and it opened my mind and heart to see strangers offering me food-even though they hadn’t eaten all day. About how I though your hijab was absolutely beautiful and that it complimented your skin tone really nicely.

I wish I’d had said these things, but all I said was that it wasn’t a problem. And it wasn’t. I just wish you knew why.