Lessons learned in Norma’s place

What is it like to be Norma? Over the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to be the front person, the first face of dining services during the lunch hour.

The experience provided valuable observations and great opportunities to connect with students, faculty and staff.

I am reminded of the poem by Robert Fulghum, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten,” but with a twist to fit my days as Norma Sconce.

1. Say hello: For most people this comes naturally, and it opens the door to longer conversations.

2. Take notice: Generally, people are pleased to know that others observe new hairstyles, care about medical concerns and ask for updates on yesterday’s big test.

3. Turn your ID card the right way: What a huge help this was – especially when the line was long.

4. Practice random acts of kindness: These acts come in big and small forms from assisting an injured person with his or her tray, saying a kind comment or asking someone to sit with you. 

5. Don’t lie or steal: You will be caught. It ruins your reputation and it’s bad karma.

6. Say thank you: Show your gratitude to those who serve you. Take your dirty dishes and work to make your experience better. 

7. You are part of the problem or the solution: Let us know ways to serve you or the community better. Grumbling is not productive.

8. Leave your area clean: Nothing is worse than finding stray food, plates or silverware left on the table or floor. This is commonsense and courteous.

9. Eat your veggies: Some people like green beans, some do not. Try new things and get creative making your own new healthful meals. You are what you eat.

10. Say good-bye: Icing on the cake. Not everyone did this – but for those who did, I appreciated you going the extra mile.

Another insight I gained was how hard the dining service team works every day for our community.

From preparing food to cooking to dish cleaning, the team does more physical labor in one mealtime than I do in a week.

Typically they serve 400 people just for lunch and in a matter of hours prepare to serve another 300 for dinner.

They are kind, hard working and caring, often noticing subtle changes in students. 

They are silent observers and have tremendous insights into students who may be having a difficult time connecting with others, are experiencing disordered eating or may be homesick.

The team remembers individual likes or dislikes in the serving line.

Finally, I was incredibly impressed with the outpouring of love and support for Norma.

For all who signed her card, donated money, asked about her and wished her well – thank you.

Caring for one another creates a more meaningful community.

Norma shows how much she cares by knowing our names, smiling and serving us each day. <br/>I truly will miss my days as Norma, but I miss her more and look forward to seeing her at the door.I truly will miss my days as Norma, but I miss her more and look forward to seeing her at the door.
I truly will miss my days as Norma, but I miss her more and look forward to seeing her at the door.