Belonging to a Place and Why it’s Important

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A few days ago, I felt like I just had to get away from my apartment for a while. It just so happens that the one year anniversary of my move to The Valley of the Sun falls on this week. And we’re suffering an early foreshadowing of mid-summer, with almost 10 days in a row of 100 degree-plus heat.

So I went out to the restaurant in my neighborhood that’s quickly become my favorite. It’s called Hula’s Modern Tiki. And it’s a place that’s hard to describe, like a lot of Phoenix restaurants. Rarely does a place stick to just one thing, especially if they want to, well, stick around.

Hula’s has a melange of Mexican and seafood dishes, mainly tiny tacos and sandwiches, but everything has pineapple or something that makes you think of Polynesia. Even the brownie and ice cream dessert (which I tried for the first time on that night) came with an umbrella like you’d expect to find in a coconut drink on a tropical beach.

Anyway, when the waitress came to take my order, somehow she’d remembered me from the crowd of people who eat there every week. She specifically knew that unlike that night, I normally ate lunch (or as I reminded her, and she agreed, weekend brunch). It’s probably something every waitress knows how to do, but it touched me. For someone to remember when I visit, it meant something. It, in a very small -and yeah, maybe superficial- way, meant that I belong. That it was like a home away from home. And that’s not something I take lightly.

When someone takes the time to notice, and takes the time to care about what’s happening around them and with those around them, it really does make a difference. Even if it seems like a small gesture to you, it can mean the world for one other person.

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