The first restaurant was fancier.
Spotless white paint covered the smooth concrete walls. The floors were clean – we wiped the mud off our feed with towels as we entered. Tables and chairs were arranged neatly and precisely. A comfortable cushion padded each chair.
The place had a nice view too. To one side you could see the ocean. To the other you could see the harbor.
But something about it didn’t sit right.
Was it that the staff wouldn’t be flexible in our setting a place for our little daughter?
Was it the higher prices?
Was it how perfect they tried to make everything feel?
Whatever it was, we decided to leave. Before they took our order, we headed out.
The second restaurant was not so fancy.
A thatched roof hung overhead, covering a space open to the outside air – to the elements. The paint was chipped. The fence was rusted. Laminated posters and landscape scenes from calendars were the highlights of the decorations. An old dog lay in the corner.
We took our seats near the edge of the patio on well-worn plastic chairs. The owner of the place wiped off the table for us as we sat down.
Maybe it wasn’t as fancy as the other place, but something about it felt right.
Was it our daughter’s excitement in seeing the dog?
Was it the lower prices?
Was it that it reminded me of life in Kenya – where I grew up?
Was it the warmth and friendliness of the owner – who was also our waiter and cook?
Whatever the reason, we stayed. We placed our order, and waited for the food to come.
My tendency is often to cast things as good or bad. If it doesn’t work for me, or doesn’t match what I’m looking for, it’s bad. If I like it, it’s good. But that’s not an accurate judgement.
Everyone has expectations. Everyone has preferences and preconceptions about what they want. And just because something doesn’t fit my taste, that doesn’t mean it’s bad.
There wasn’t anything inherently wrong about the first place. Some people would prefer to eat there. But it didn’t fit our expectations for what we were looking for. It wasn’t the right fit for us.
Some people probably wouldn’t like the second restaurant. But it fit our tastes and preferences. It made us feel welcome.
I’m learning to remember that I’m the one who’s casting judgement. I’m learning to state that is or is not a fit for me.
And by being more honest about my preferences, I can spend more time on the things that I do enjoy. That makes me happier.
Our lunch was simply seasoned, and it was tasty and filling. It was just what we wanted. We left satisfied.