by Vanessa Phillips
November 5, 2016
A Sommelier by profession, I create new bonds and establish trust with strangers every day. I do this knowing that there’s a large possibility that I will never see a guest again. For many of my interactions, I’ll take them on a journey around the world for 2 hours; we’ll learn about cultures, farms, and weather through bottles of wine. At the end of those two hours, I know that we part ways. They may thank me, shake my hand, or offer a hug, but I expect nothing in return. The service industry is, for the most part, a thankless profession. For me, that brief time of truly impacting someone’s experience is my reward. I pride myself on how I approach guest interactions. I want to make them feel that they are at home, comfortable, and with someone who will create a magical experience.
In my life outside of work, I follow a similar mindset with my friendships and relationships; however, I never felt the need for affection. I enjoy keeping in touch with acquaintances and friends who, post-college, parted ways and moved across the country. I will admit to being that friend who will, regardless of length of time apart, text or call you to check in and catch up. I joke that once you let me into your life, I’ll be around forever. I spend hours searching websites and shops for the perfect gifts that I will ship to them as little pick me ups for rough times. I want it to be thoughtful, for them to know that I love them. While living in my small college town, I took time on days off to cook for my friends who would be working, or bring them treats to make their days brighter. I wanted to be described as caring, loving, and to have a warmth about me. I’m fairly certain that I have succeeded in that.
A year ago today, I received a message that would change much of my thoughts on life and love. One of the people that I loved would not be with me. Being Kelly, she apologized for telling me about her condition. Even at that moment, Kelly cared more about my own feelings than what she needed. That was Kelly. She loved everyone she encountered equally, unabashedly, and did so without wanting anything in return. She was selfless.
The following weeks stand still in my memory, almost like photographs of each moment that would, in hindsight, cause me to re-evaluate my relationships with others. I remember profusely thanking a work acquaintance for driving 45 minutes to retrieve me from the airport after I flew to see Kelly. I also remember a moment where he looked at me with all seriousness and told me to stop saying thank you. He was doing this because he cared about me, not just professionally, and that there was no need to thank him. I remember going to work, truly grieving, and having a friend stop by with coffee and a hug. I remember being so overwhelmed with emotion that a friend offered to do my laundry because I didn’t have the energy to do so. I remember a close friend telling me that he didn’t want to see me sad. He told me that anytime I was sad, I should call him and we would watch musicals to take my mind off of things.
I felt overwhelmed; overwhelmed with people showing such kindness, love, and generosity to me. You see, I thrived off of seeing how my love could brighten others’ lives. I never had thought that by putting out that energy, I would receive it back tenfold. Kelly said that nothing could be more worthwhile than being more loving towards others. I agreed, but only partially understood the true gravity of that statement.
After seven years residing in small Lawrence, KS, I was treated to a going away party by a dear friend. Everyone that I loved in town opened their hearts, and wine cellars, for an event as hodgepodge and heartfelt as Rory’s departure from Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls. I saw that all of the time put into loving others not only made me feel fulfilled, but it created a community that stood behind me with open arms.
It’s only recently that I’ve pieced together all of what makes loving others worthwhile. While spreading love to everyone, you’re in turn spreading love to yourself. It’s a love that you don’t realize in actual time; you don’t see it every day, but you feel it. It’s a love that I know Kelly felt surrounding her when she needed it most. It’s a love that you never expect. But, that is the love that makes spreading love to others so worthwhile.