Smiles In Philly

Smiles In Philly

I winged it and my winging paid off

Spring Break 2017 recently came to an end and whether we went to the Bahamas or decided to spend a week on an Alternative Spring Break, we all spent that week doing what made us the happiest within. Personally I chose to go to Philadelphia, a city that was part of the Alternative Spring Break idea. This city offered workshops and community service opportunities that were based on domestic violence, homelessness, and women’s rights. The trip on its own was wonderful. Meeting and speaking with the homeless, getting to know their story, where they plan on going in life, and all of the lessons they had to share was amazing. The workshops were decent, somewhat informational but a bit biased. We helped in a women’s domestic violence homeless shelter which did not seem like much but the appreciation I saw on the woman’s face let me know we did what was needed of us. While the community service part of the trip was wonderful and memorable the social part of the trip is the reasoning I am writing about it this week.

About 15 years ago a part of my family separated and I did not hear from them for that time frame. The family that I did not hear from lives in Philadelphia. I went out on a limb and decided to contact one of them just to see what would happen. Honestly I am not sure what I expected to happen, at this point in my life I am kind of going with the flow. There are things and goals within my life that I know I need to accomplish in order for me to be happy with myself but other than that I am taking life as God gives it to me. Back to the story, the one I contacted replied and was ecstatic to hear from me actually. We got to messaging and I continued to update them on where I was going to be and when I had free-time to hangout while I was up there. The family member ended up meeting up with me and the group I was with in the city and I wish I could put into words the amount of happiness, excitement, and nervousness that filled the air in those few seconds leading up to opening the restaurant door. All throughout dinner we talked whether it was about the past, the present, and even the future we were focused on us. Dinner came to an end and I had to go back to the house with the group. The family member and I kept in contact throughout the week and they were even able to setup a time frame to meet the other family member I had not seen in 15 years. On a tour of The Kimmel Center I met up with the second family member and we talked throughout the tour. At the end of the tour I caught up with both of them and when we spoke to each other it’s as if time did not pass, we just aged a few years.

When I got back to the house I cried a little. For so long I thought I had lost contact with that side of my family for good because of one bad person and that ate me alive. I had no idea that on a school trip I would see family members nor did I think I would get along with them as well as I did. Throughout my life I have gone through many “rude- awakenings,” many on my own but I’ve managed to get through them and to find myself once the tide of confusion came down. No one said life was going to be easy, each challenge is another lesson that can be learned and every heartbreak is another chance to learn who you are as a person. There is a lot more I could say about what happened this spring break but the experience speaks for itself and for what the future holds. I am not sure what I am about to say makes any sense, if it does great, if it does not then I hope one day it does. I am glad things went wrong in my childhood, I am happy I got my heartbroken, and I am happy I have seen what struggling looks like. Encountering all of these bumps in my life has allowed me the gratitude and humbleness that makes these experiences and meetings more meaningful then a simple “Hello.” Life is hard, you will not know what is going on sometimes and other times it will seem as if you are drowning. I am not an expert on life and I still sometimes end up overwhelmed. But if you can learn to just go with the flow and trust that weird events are happening for a reason then you will learn to look at smaller things with more joy in your heart and your goals will not seem as farfetched as you think they are.

I wish you the best always,


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​An Open Letter To The People Who Don’t Tip Their Servers

This one's for you.

Dear Person Who Has No Idea How Much The 0 In The “Tip:" Line Matters,

I want to by asking you a simple question: Why?

Is it because you can't afford it? Is it because you are blind to the fact that the tip you leave is how the waiter/waitress serving you is making their living? Is it because you're just lazy and you “don't feel like it"?

Is it because you think that, while taking care of not only your table but at least three to five others, they took too long bringing you that side of ranch dressing? Or is it just because you're unaware that as a server these people make $2.85 an hour plus TIPS?

The average waiter/waitress is only supposed to be paid $2.13 an hour plus tips according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That then leaves the waiter/waitress with a paycheck with the numbers **$0.00** and the words “Not a real paycheck." stamped on it. Therefore these men and women completely rely on the tips they make during the week to pay their bills.

So, with that being said, I have a few words for those of you who are ignorant enough to leave without leaving a few dollars in the “tip:" line.

Imagine if you go to work, the night starts off slow, then almost like a bomb went off the entire workplace is chaotic and you can't seem to find a minute to stop and breathe, let alone think about what to do next.

Imagine that you are helping a total of six different groups of people at one time, with each group containing two to 10 people.

Imagine that you are working your ass off to make sure that these customers have the best experience possible. Then you cash them out, you hand them a pen and a receipt, say “Thank you so much! It was a pleasure serving you, have a great day!"

Imagine you walk away to attempt to start one of the 17 other things you need to complete, watch as the group you just thanked leaves, and maybe even wave goodbye.

Imagine you are cleaning up the mess that they have so kindly left behind, you look down at the receipt and realize there's a sad face on the tip line of a $24.83 bill.

Imagine how devastated you feel knowing that you helped these people as much as you could just to have them throw water on the fire you need to complete the night.

Now, realize that whenever you decide not to tip your waitress, this is nine out of 10 times what they go through. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to realize that this is someone's profession — whether they are a college student, a single mother working their second job of the day, a new dad who needs to pay off the loan he needed to take out to get a safer car for his child, your friend, your mom, your dad, your sister, your brother, you.

If you cannot afford to tip, do not come out to eat. If you cannot afford the three alcoholic drinks you gulped down, plus your food and a tip do not come out to eat.

If you cannot afford the $10 wings that become half-off on Tuesdays plus that water you asked for, do not come out to eat.

If you cannot see that the person in front of you is working their best to accommodate you, while trying to do the same for the other five tables around you, do not come out to eat. If you cannot realize that the man or woman in front of you is a real person, with their own personal lives and problems and that maybe these problems have led them to be the reason they are standing in front of you, then do not come out to eat.

As a server myself, it kills me to see the people around me being deprived of the money that they were supposed to earn. It kills me to see the three dollars you left on a $40 bill. It kills me that you cannot stand to put yourself in our shoes — as if you're better than us. I wonder if you realize that you single-handedly ruined part of our nights.

I wonder if maybe one day you will be in our shoes, and I hope to God no one treats you how you have treated us. But if they do, then maybe you'll realize how we felt when you left no tip after we gave you our time.

Cover Image Credit: Hailea Shallock

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My Boyfriend's Family Helped Me Find My Home Away From Home

Taking "home is where the heart is" to a new level.


I have always heard that one day I will find a place that will feel like my home away from home, specifically with my significant other. Honestly, I couldn't envision loving a place like the way I do my hometown, let alone love it even more. Nonetheless, here I am, sitting in the Little Rock, Arkansas airport tearing up as I say goodbye to my home away from home.

Let me tell you about my hometown. I live in a relatively small town in Wyoming and it has always been my home. My family, friends and work are here in Wyoming. But, there happens to be this man who has my whole entire heart. His hometown is a little town in Arkansas, that also happens to be 17 hours away from me. I came to visit him in his hometown for the first time ever. Not only to see Arkansas for the first time but to see him for the first time in a month and to have the opportunity to meet his family.

I won't lie, meeting parents for the first time is definitely nerve-wracking. It's not that I am hard to get along with, it's the fact that I want them to love me because I love their son and I couldn't conceptualize that ever changing. From the moment I stepped into their home, I was welcomed with big arms and beautiful smiles. His family welcomed me, a complete stranger, into their home with no questions asked. Right away I knew I felt like I was home.

Finding your home away from home is easy to recognize. Home is a place full of love and laughter and that is what I found in Arkansas. It was a second home that I felt comfortable in. Feeling comfortable somewhere is not always the easiest feeling to grasp. For me, I feel the need to be in a comfortable place to be myself and call it "home."

I believe that it is essential for everyone to have a "second home" or a "home away from home." Having a second family can and does provide so much more love in my life I never knew I needed. I of course do and always will love and adore my family with my whole heart and soul but having these other people in my life gives me so much assurance that I'll always be surrounded with love and happiness. You can never have too many friends, too much family and certainly never too much love. So thank you. Thank you for welcoming me, loving me as your own, and showing me that having a home away from home is such a positive part of my life.

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