One evening, the whole family went out to dinner at a local restaurant. Everyone got a menu, even the youngest, Aimee, who was 6 years old. Since the conversation was an ‘adult’ one, Aimee sat there ignored. When the waitress took their orders, she came to Aimee last.
“And, what would you like to eat, young lady?” she asked. Aimee answered, “I will have a hamburger, French fries and a large coke”.
“No”, said her mother. “She will have a small salad with low fat dressing, baked chicken, carrots and boiled rice”. “And milk to drink”, chimed in her father.
The waitress looked at Aimee and asked, “Would you like catsup or mustard on your hamburger”? She said, “Catsup with some fried onions on top please. Oh, and put a very small piece of lettuce on top to please my parents. Thank you very much”.
As the waitress walked away to place the order, Aimee turned toward her family and said, “You know what? She thinks I’m real”.
Source | Unknown. Here it is retold as remembered
Here’s a slightly different version
A family settled down for dinner at a restaurant. The waitress first took the order of the adults, then turned to the seven year old. “What will you have?” she asked.
The boy looked around the table timidly and said, “I would like to have a hot dog.”
Before the waitress could write down the order, the mother interrupted. “No hot dogs,” she said, “Get him a steak with mashed potatoes and carrots.”
The waitress ignored her. “Do you want ketchup or mustard on your hot dog?” she asked the boy.
“Coming up in a minute,” said the waitress as she started for the kitchen.
There was a stunned silence when she left. Finally the boy looked at everyone present and said, “Know what? She thinks I’m real!”
Source | Anthony de Mello, The Heart of the Enlightened
(Image Books, 1997) page 45
Have you ever felt like you were being ignored? Do you ever feel like you don’t matter, you don’t count? As if no one cared about anything you had to say?
When others don’t pay attention to our presence we feel as though we are objects to be maintained or avoided or fixed, rather than real human beings to be treated with respect and dignity. On the other hand, when someone listens to us, we feel loved and we feel real.