Friendship has to be reciprocal, or it isn’t really friendship, is it?
On Friday morning the day dawned sort of gloomy, and I decided to go to our local cafe for breakfast on my way to work out — the place where Ben and Sara and I often eat on Saturday mornings. M. was my server, as usual. At the end of the meal she declined to bring me a check, saying she was treating me. After a moment’s pause I accepted with thanks, asking her with a smile why she was doing this. She said, “Many people have good hearts. You also let me know who you are.”
I thought it an interesting response.
M. is Salvadoran, here legally although her family’s protection ends in 2019 and they are likely to have to return to El Salvador. Her husband works for the city, a night job in which he is part of a crew that tries to keep homeless encampments relatively clean. That means picking up dirty needles, piles of feces, discarded food and other trash — a truckload full. He wears double gloves, hoping to prevent a needle stick. They have two little girls. M. also works for me here, cleaning my house. When she heard I was moving to Queen Anne, she asked about the cleaning job, saying her family needed to earn extra money. I gladly accepted her offer to work here. She often has lunch with me as she finishes up her tasks, and that’s how we’ve gotten to know each other. Over the course of many conversations, we’ve moved from employer-employee to friend.
I quite like being treated to breakfast, although I can well afford to pay my restaurant bills on my own. M. clearly shares my belieft that friendship is reciprocal — otherwise I’m an employer or benefactor, not a friend. There’s considerable dignity in that, just like my relationships with the Panamanians.
Did she sense I was there because I wasn’t looking forward to eating breakfast alone? I suspect so. That’s what I think she meant by “you let me know who you are”.