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  • Writer's pictureSue Schleifer

Rice and Gravy

Rice and Gravy at Gary's

My friend’s daughter worked for many years as a chef at a residential hospice center in San Francisco. One of the cool things they did was give residents the option of requesting their favorite dishes. A Louisiana native eagerly sat down to his dinner of rice and gravy. “What’s this?” he exclaimed." Rachel said, “Rice and gravy. It’s what you requested.” “This isn’t rice and gravy!” the disappointed resident shouted. Rachel looked surprised and hurt. That night she learned what rice and gravy means in Louisiana. We often think we know what someone is saying or how they are defining a word, but often we don’t. A word or phrase might mean something different to you than it does to me. Or the question that you are asking me is not really the question you want to ask, but rather the wind-up. If I don’t ask a clarifying question, I may mistakenly assume that I know what you are telling or asking me. I believe in being direct, saying or asking what is on my mind. I keep learning that is not how some people communicate. If I really want to know what is on a person’s mind, I need to be patient and ask questions and explore the topic further. Rachel realizes now that had she asked, “What kind of gravy?” she might have realized that gravy to him was not what she enjoyed on Thanksgiving atop her mashed potatoes. She did think it was a bit odd to put brown gravy on rice, but didn’t pursue her doubt any further. That’s just it. If we feel just a hint of doubt, it is a good idea to ask a question. What does rice and gravy mean to you?

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