It has been quiet at the diner this week.
(I work nights and weekends at the diner – on top of fulfilling my duties here as editor – to pay my way through college.)
It has been quiet this week because of Spring Break. Everyone left town, desperate to get a breath of fresh air before plunging into another two months of books, scantrons and Top Ramen.
I would know.
But not everyone’s Spring Break looks the same, and for the college students in your neighborhood who are plugging away at one of the local universities or community colleges, it may not be a break at all.
Most of us work jobs (some of us, more than one) to ease the immense burden of tuition and books, on top of the regular burden of food and gas.
I do not bring this up to garner any kind of pity. I am not sure I would know what to do with a real Spring Break if I had one.
No, rather, I mention this situation because I think it is valuable for this community to view their college students through a different lens. Yes, many of our sons and daughters are able to study at fine universities on scholarships – academic or athletic – and with aid from the state or the home. What the movies depict – the affluent twenty-somethings wrapped up in parties and lifestyle drama – is not necessarily the life your neighbor’s college kid is living.
In fact, the girl at the Barnes & Noble you shop at or the guy behind your local Starbucks counter is probably one such example of a college student not getting a Spring Break.
It’s good for us, really – adults don’t get Spring Break either. This is good practice.
But there are some things you can do to support your local college students.
First of all, have a little patience. There is definitely a customer service standard held among the generation that was able to afford both college and housing in their twenties – service with a smile! And while I fully believe in service and smiling, I can promise you that some of my coworkers have good reason to look tired or to sound short. If you catch one of them at the end of a twelve-hour day with homework waiting for them when they’re off the clock, they may not live up to that standard of pleasantries.
I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying it is. Patience and understanding would mean a lot.
Secondly, be generous!
Be generous when you tip, be generous when you make conversation, be generous when you listen!
The financial and moral support I have received from people who pass through this diner by way of a few extra dollars on tip line of their bill or a few more minutes to ask me what I’m studying or what I enjoy about school has gone a long way.
It is good to know that there are established members of the community who are invested in my life and where I am going. Let’s share that encouragement around!
I think sometimes our generations have been too far separated by culture, technology and the current of change. We can fix that, and we should.
But, as you may have guessed, isn’t only applicable to our college students – this is common human decency that we can and should practice with everyone in our community. If we are going to share vision and voice, and forge a way forward, we need to begin by meeting at eye level, even if just at the register.