This is the story of my breakfast with Dion: a story of taking responsibility.
Do you know someone who is stepping up and taking responsibility for creating and nourishing kindness and humanity? I’d love to hear about them. Please share your stories here with hashtags #takingresponsibility and #meghancarymusic.
Last weekend in DC, a stranger changed the course of my day – and many others’ as well, I’m guessing. Dion works at the Fairfield Inn and Suites Downtown/DC serving and cleaning up after the breakfast buffet that comes free with every stay. Midway through the Sunday rush, he stood in the middle of the makeshift dining room and asked for our attention. We settled surprisingly quickly for a room full of hungry strangers. Dion introduced himself and welcomed us to the hotel. He introduced the other server and the chef, and told us to ask him or them for whatever we might need. He explained to us that while we were there at the Marriott, we were “family”, and would be treated as such.
He paused for a moment, and I figured the rather unique and pleasantly personal plug for the hotel was all he had. But then he asked for our attention once again, and went one meaningful step further. He asked us to consider something more important than whether we needed another pat of butter for our toast. He asked us to consider what we (the collective “we”) really need in life.
Dion commanded our attention with his warmth and vulnerability. He looked me in the eye and spoke directly to me. I’m guessing everyone in the room felt the same. “We’re all family. That’s why it’s important to be there for each other.” He went on to explain how easy and important it is to be there for even the strangers we pass on the street. He asked us to meet a stranger’s eye today, smile at them, say hello. “You could really make someone’s day just by doing that.”
Dion finished, thanked us for our attention, and went back to work. We went back to our steam tray eggs and turkey sausage, but the room was different. Dion had, in those few moments with those brief remarks, changed the energy of the room. We were no longer strangers sitting uncomfortably close together in a hotel lobby trying to eat our individual breakfasts without interruption. We were now a room full of folks sharing a meal. I found myself talking music with the young woman and her mother from Shreveport, LA sitting at the table next to me. Conversations bubbled up in pockets all around the room. The energy lifted. The shift was palpable.
What Dion said about connection resonated with me profoundly. It was in such harmony with what I say every time I introduce, “Responsibility”, the song I wrote about the homeless crisis in our country. So, I got up and found Dion by the lemon poppy seed muffins, and told him about my experience when I first moved to New York City, how I was overwhelmed by all the people living on the street, and felt like I couldn’t do anything “big” enough to help. I told him about the “ah-hah” moment I had when I realized that we as humans need to and find joy in connecting, and that I can make a difference in the lives of the homeless in my area by acknowledging them, speaking with them, connecting with them on a human level, even if I can’t find homes for or feed each and every one of them.
As I told him about “Responsibility” and why I wrote it, Dion began to tear up. When I finished my story, Dion shared his with me. “The people here at this hotel saved my life”, he said. He went on to tell me that he had been homeless, living on the street with his wife and kids when he finally got a job at this hotel as a valet. After a few months working outside, management came to him and said they’d notice that guests and employees alike gravitated to him, and they felt they needed him working inside. So they promoted him to the job he has now. In the spring of 2018, he moved his family into their own home. Now it was my eyes that misted.
Dion’s story stayed with me as I stepped onto the crowded elevator to go back up to my room. When the doors closed and the box full of strangers began to climb, a woman near the back piped up: “How’s everyone doing today?” And to my surprise, we all piped right back: “Great!” “Really good!” “Just fine!” She asked us each where we were from, and the conversation grew from there. This was not, in my experience, a common occurrence – 10 strangers on an elevator talking, laughing, connecting – it was a direct result of the words of wisdom Dion took the time to share with us. We reached the 5th floor and I reluctantly left the party.
On our way out to explore DC, I found Dion once again to thank him for making such a difference in my day, and in the world in general. I gave him a copy of “Sing Louder”, and he introduced me to his wife. I don’t know if I’ll ever see Dion and Evelyn again, but my breakfast with him changed the course of my day, now my week, and I expect my life. I will carry Dion’s story with me always.
Thank you Dion for taking responsibility.