Hidden behind the dirty glass windows is a not so large, rectangular, one-room restaurant. Wading through the throng stuffed into this restaurant, I realize I could be in Shanghai, Hong Kong or New York. There are few white faces in the crowd and as the clock strikes three p.m., the staff finds tables for themselves and with heaping plates of food sit down to eat. The crowd is a happy one chatting away in loud Chinese dialects; I cannot tell one from another. The staff stuffs their mouths full of food; long noodles hang from their lips as they use chopsticks to maneuver their food from bowl to mouth.

The cacophony of noise is so loud that even sitting next to each other, thigh to thigh, we cannot really hear one another. The aromas in the air make my mouth water. As I look, I watch an ancient Chinese man approach our table.  A “Grandfather,” with a questioning raise of his brows asks to share our table.  As he sits I reach to fill his teacup and when he has none I give him mine.  This small act of kindness and respect seals our friendship; a friendship that lasts the length of a meal and forever.

I am in heaven. I say little during lunch. I am too enthralled with watching faces different from mine. Tasting food that is so “tasty” that I hold it in my mouth to savor the aroma, taste and texture. Grandfather is silent through the meal as well. Staff comes and goes sometimes sitting themselves down at our large round table speaking with each other, sometime engaging us in choppy conversation.

It is an experience beyond the pale of mainstream society.  In no restaurant that I know does the staff come out of the kitchen and off the service floor in mass and sit down with the customers to eat. There are certainly family-style restaurants where strangers share tables, but few with ancient Chinese faces absorbed in the betting form in front of them. It is wonderful.

Each day that I can step out of my comfort zone, I find ways to Champion Love and reach for self-improvement. So, as Grandfather begins to silently, yet authoritatively, direct the staff to pay attention to our needs, I smile. I hear his first English words as he barks our “Su” to get a waitress’s attention for us. He then looks at me with a shy smile and turns his attention once more to his racing form.

As we leave to step back into the known world, I smile at this ancient Chinese gentleman, this Grandfather, and gently bow my head in respect. He smiles at me looking me in the eyes; a rare gift from a Chinese Grandfather.

A few moments spent in someone else’s world can change your entire perspective.