Thomas Keneally and the Hired Help

wine bottle (copy)

Back in the day when I worked as a host for a company that supplied staff to corporate boxes in stadiums throughout Sydney, I recall a glossy minuscule moment, a moment I think about often.

A day where I had the pleasure of waiting on the author Thomas Keneally. I get a buzz just thinking about it. Being in that room and watching him enjoy his favorite rugby league team hammer it out on the field below. Yet it was how he treated his friends, acquaintances and the hired help, meaning me, the staff that impressed me the most. What I learned from this man sent me on the path I am walking today.

I could not believe my luck when my manager informed me that Thomas Keneally might be in one of my rooms on that day. My palms began to sweat as I thought about how I would deal with serving one of Australia’s greatest Author’s, the image of my shaky hands pouring his wine, it was enough to make my knees buckle.

Excited and nervous at the same time thinking about this mans achievements. Thomas Keneally won the Booker Prize in 1982 with Schindler’s Ark, which was later made into the Academy Award-winning film Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg. There is a long list of awards and novel’s he has written yet Schindler’s Ark left its mark, it haunted me for a long time.  At that stage I was only tinkering with the idea of writing a children’s novel. Thinking back I want to slap myself for not having the courage to ask him for a few helpful writing tips.

As the game played out, I realised there was no time for worry. I rushed from one box into the next, making sure all my guests were happy and satisfied with the service and refreshments.  What struck me about Thomas was his large genuine smile, a smile he used on every one, a down to earth manner which radiated through the room and left me feeling at ease. Halfway through my busy shift I entered, juggling multiple trays of food, Thomas asked did I need any help? His mood jolly, it was infectious, the other guests cheered and laughed along with him, wrapped in the colours of their team and getting into the spirit of the match. It made my work enjoyable the way a sunday afternoon in the boxes usually played out. The word pretentious did not invade their space even with this famous Author on board. I saved that word for the room next door.

In stark contrast, I waited on a room full of executives who sat like stone garden ornaments covered in ivy and watching the football as if attending a chess game. I imagined crickets chirping, it would have broken the silence at least. I am never good with silence, the nerves crept back into my creaking bones. A young, well dressed woman ushered me over with a flick of her finger and I hurriedly went to her aid. Without a word she dumped her rubbish in my hands, a used napkin. I did not mind, that was my job and I was there to clean up the mess BUT the fact was, the bin was right below her bar stool. She only had to swing to her left and drop the rubbish in the bin. It would have taken more energy to call me over and hand me the rubbish yet she did this without flinching.  I could not help feeling a pinch of fire in my veins at her intentions, her wish to remind me that I was here to serve her every whim. It did not last long. I smiled to myself thinking how pathetic her act was, sure she probably was a successful, attractive (if she learned how to smile), wealthy individual. My parents taught me no matter who we think we are, we should treat everybody the same. I brushed the incident aside and went on with my work.

As I raced from room to room, we host’s never stay idle, serving drinks, cleaning tables, carting trays of delectable seafood cocktails. A stubborn wine cork had me flustered. Mr Keneally came forth.

“Can I help?” He asked as the cork gave way we smiled, he grabbed the bottle,

“Would you like me to pour the wine for everyone?” He said this most sincerely, I was amazed by his humble attitude and quickly reassured him that this was my job and took the bottle back. I smiled inwardly at the contrast within these two rooms, this talented, generous soul who offered to help the hired help and went on to ask questions about my background. Even though I was dying to tell him I was writing a novel, I did not have the courage to say it out loud. I know he probably will never remember the kindness he showed this tired worn out mum but I will never forget how he made me feel. Like a valuable human being.

I  had the last laugh with the woman next door as I came through to clean up the tables the young woman was trying to stuff a bottle of the house red into her designer label hand bag. Maybe not so well off  after all, she smiled an uneven number on me and left the box without thanking me for my services, but I did not care.

Thomas Keneally is a generous and compassionate man. Maybe the gift of understanding the human condition is why he is at the top of his game.

What I learned is not only do I want to write, I want to treat others with respect and with gratitude, I never want to make someone feel less. If I take these kath 1 (copy)qualities …. generosity, humbleness and compassion on my journey surely I can make the everyday person feel valuable.

How about you? Does leaving a memorable impression on others have any value in your world? Has someone famous impressed you?

About Minuscule Moments

Everybody has a DREAM. Today is the first day of the rest of my writing life. Its a lonely world out there when you are learning the craft. This year, as the same as last year, I want to finish my first children's picture book. I have learn't many wonderful lessons on this journey. You are never too old to learn.
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37 Responses to Thomas Keneally and the Hired Help

  1. annepeterson says:

    Enjoyed your post. And the way you went back and forth to the two rooms which really seemed worlds apart. I loved the details and the descriptions and felt as if I were there, but please, put me in the room with that gracious man.

    “I never want to make someone feel less…”

    I’m afraid I once met someone who was “famous.” an author. But, I was disillusioned when I saw an attitude which made it seem as if he liked the prestige more than those who stood there hanging on his every word.

    This wasn’t obvious till I introduced someone to him and he brushed it off making it seem like he had no time for the commoner. At least, that was my impression. I made a conscious decision that day as well. I would not dismiss people, make them feel insignificant.

    Sometimes we can learn the most valuable lessons by seeing things played out.

    • Anne I agree, we watch, listen and learn and then write it down I often imagine what it would be like to have so much money that i could help family and friends with, but in the end people just need a thank you or a smile.

  2. I haven’t met anyone I’d consider famous. Were I famous, I’d never want to treat anyone as that woman treated you. Even now, when I’m the customer, I make it a point to thank those who toil for my benefit whether they were serving me directly or indirectly. Everyone deserves that and too few receive it.

  3. Great story. We learn so much when we’re invisible. Amazing, isn’t it? I hope Thomas Keneally has a publicist that collects all references to him, so he finds this wonderful story.

  4. Lotta Wanner says:

    Thank you for sharing your useful ecperience! I want to be that kind of person too! (The thoughtful and caring t.i) 😃

  5. Sara says:

    What a great story! If there is one attitude I abhor in people it’s entitlement. It can be found in people of all economic classes, cultures, and ages. There is nothing wrong with people having good manners, and obviously Mr. Keneally embodies the Golden Rule without regard to his status. Good for him! And good for those who cross his path and are inspired. I wish more people were like him, and I wish more people would take a lesson from him. It’s nice you got to have a slice of his kindness and that it made an impression on you.

  6. Great post Kath, generally I would cross the street to avoid meeting a celebrity but sometimes you can’t avoid it. I met my hero Bishop John Rucyahana in Rwanda last summer, he wrote “Bishop of Rwanda, Finding Forgiveness Amidst a Pile of Bones” about the genocide. I was so afraid to meet him, but my team leader insisted I had to meet him, and he was so gracious, spoke to me for several minutes and insisted on taking a photo. My daughter Marie met your countryman Keith Urban backstage at a concert, and he was very nice and down to earth.

    • I am the same Kathleen I was always the person who looked at the famous and thought mm they are only human, I like to admire what they are good at and even when I lined up in London to get Micheal Palin’s autograph, I did not say the book was for myself, silly shy person I am sometimes. Hey there’s another post!

  7. Such a contrast between the two rooms. I felt like I was there with you. When I worked in Tokyo as a photographer in the 80’s I had the opportunity to meet several famous people. The ones who were kind left the biggest impression.

  8. Another thoughtful post, Kath. How you make others feel about themselves is what remains, long after we go our separate ways. Something to keep in mind.

  9. Kath, this is one of the best things I read of yours! There is no doubt in my mind you are reliving a key moment, and exploring what made it so powerful for you. Excellent use of contrast and drawing characters by letting us see their actions.

  10. snappychat says:

    Hi Kath, Loved your story. I know which room I would rather be in and it isn’t the room with the napkin Lady and the corporate world. A total contrast with the atmosphere between both the rooms . Tom sounds like a wonderful man. Love your stories.

  11. What a wonderful story Kath. That woman from the other room was typical of people that think they are the cat’s whiskers and you know, they hide under that brash attitude a lack of confidence.
    I saw the film, and Thomas Keneally was in famous company too (you) and he did know that. That is why he showed respect to everyone. Had you not known who he was, he would have made the same huge impression on you.
    Like you said, treat everyone with kindness and respect.
    As for meeting someone famous…yes. She lives on a dairy farm and writes children’s books. And she’s really cool and a little quirky … thinks she can scare snakes by throwing a banana at them !?!
    Have a wonderful week. Finishing up this side. Not so much left to do.

    • Patricia you have the power to make me chuckle, after a challenging day. The snake never came back so the banana worked lol. I love that term the cats whiskers somebody probably already made a children’s book with that name. See you on the other side my beautiful friend.

  12. What a wonderful post. One of the people who really made an impression on me early on was none other than Ray Bradbury. I had the opportunity to meet him when I was 16 and he talked to me just like the adults in the room, asked me what kinds of things I was writing and encouraged me to continue to pursue my writing. When I made my first professional story sale some years later, he sent me a lovely letter congratulating me on the “fine story.” The fact that such a seminal science fiction writer was so generous with his time and so encouraging has always stuck with me and remained a model of professional behavior for me.

  13. David that is very inspiring and the fact Ray Bradbury wrote you a letter when you made it. I love hearing positive stories like this. Thanks for stopping by I enjoyed your site also.

  14. Audrey Chin says:

    What a lovely story Kath. And you’ve recounted it so well. It’s your eye for detail I love, especially the last little bit about the young woman trying to spirit away a bottle of red wine.
    This is an incredibly inspiring story about how we influence more people than we know. Have you considered sending this to Thomas Keneally? Given the kind of person you described, I’m sure he’d be chuffed.

    I’m hoping one day to tell people I knew the famous Kath Unsworth when she wasn’t so famous, and she’s still the same gracious caring person I met then;)

  15. Kath, what a moving story! I haven’t meant anyone famous, but my pastor is one of the most humble people I know. Some pastors seem to want to be acknowledged for their position in the church, but my pastor doesn’t hesitate to clean up a mess in the bathroom or anywhere. He goes out of his way to greet people each Sunday and is so transparent about his own failures and struggles. He uses them to show God’s handiwork. He helped me to see that God could love even me. I agree with Audrey, it will be an honor to say I knew her when…

  16. Tammy thank you and I appreciate the kind inspiring words.

  17. Sheila says:

    I wonder if he was once a waiter. Waiting on tables really does teach a lot, including that kind of compassion. I’m guessing the executives probably never waited tables. Reading and writing also really helps us put ourselves in other people’s shoes. Maybe the executives never read a book either. 🙂

  18. I definitely agree that how someone makes you feel is so much more important & memorable than anything they’ve done or achieved! I haven’t met anyone famous (yet! I hope!) but I love hearing stories, like yours, about how famous people are down-to-earth & polite! Makes them seem more human & infinitely more likeable!

  19. Desi Clown says:

    I like these little encounters that give you a new perspective. Reminded me of Mary Angelou’s quote – “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”. I try to spread a smile every now and then, especially at the staff in a shopping mall. They always strike me as rather stressed… Love how you’ve written ‘….no matter who we think we are, we should treat everybody the same’. The word THINK makes a world of a difference in the statement. Beautifully written! 🙂

    • Desi, I came from a low income family, we never had much money. My father use to say we are rich in love and I never got that for a very long time. When I think of that woman who wanted to make me feel less, that day at work. I smile, catching her smuggling the bottle of red out of the function was meant to be…..not so high and mighty after all…..Some people will never learn how to treat others, as they would like to be treated. My parents said that quote often. thanks again for reading.

      • Desi Clown says:

        I liked the “we’re rich in love” line of your father. Not many people I know are rich and generous in that way… And I actually laughed when I read the ‘bottle smuggling’ part of your post. My mum was wondering what happened to me :p
        Thanks for replying!

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