In the small town, the Corner Pancake House was where all of the girls began their careers. Sometime around the Sophomore or Junior year of Titusville Central High, the girls would waitress, cook, serve the town smart-alecks, and begin their trek from childhood to adulthood. It was the town’s singular rite-of-passage. It would last a year, perhaps two at most; the owner would yell, scream, curse and call each of the girls “lazy no-good s.o.b.s”; nevertheless, sometime “down the road”, each one of them would come back after they had gotten married, or graduated from college, or taken another job in another town, or in some big city, or every once in a while, in a foreign country – they would all make their way back to “Tony” and he would hug them as if they were their long-lost sister.
But there was once this girl – Judy; she never left. It wasn’t as if she wasn’t attractive; sure, she was quiet, perhaps a bit too introverted; and though you wouldn’t call her a “looker”, she possessed a certain sense of quiet serenity; and she stayed. By all accounts, Tony treated her like trash; one would have thought that, after the third or fourth year, when it became apparent that Judy would never leave; that she would remain a waitress at the Corner Pancake House all of her life; that Tony would have begun to treat her well. But it was as if Tony didn’t know how else to treat her. When Judy would leave a piece of microscopic lettuce in a hidden corner behind the salt/pepper/sugar carrier, Tony would take great pleasure in his bellowing voice, calling, “Judy! Get over there and do a proper job! Stop being so lazy and…” and with quiet serenity, without complaint, without emotion, Judy would rush over to the table and correct the infraction.
There were rumors, of course; rumors that Tony loved Judy; that Tony and Judy were secretly married; that Judy was secretly in love with Tony, but because she had promised her heart to a mysterious man in another town, that she could not… But the truth of it was that Tony didn’t know how else to treat Judy; he had never had a girl from Titusville Central High stay and work; and so he continued to treat her like the high school girl he knew her to be, even after years and years. Now, some might say that this is a rather sad opening for a story; but who are we to judge the reasons and foundational values that embrace the life of another? How many of us can know the inner thoughts of Judy; and how can we determine that her life was of greater or lesser value than the girls who came and went, who went on to “glorious” careers, or to exotic sanctuaries of work, play, lives fulfilled or forlorn? The worth of a person must be judged not by the work he or she does, but by the quality of attending to the task before the person. That Judy made sure that each of the tables was prepared for the customers; that the orders were taken with precision and pleasantness; that there was always a quiet smile, and a word of encouragement – are these not the episodes of value? Yet, how often do we pass by the many Judys of this world, and make either a judgment or none at all. Indeed, to not even notice may be the greater mark of cruelty, than to judge that your fellow man is of lesser worth.
See also: In a Small Town, Part II