Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nilgiris' First LOIS Award Evening

On Saturday, August 28, 2010, Nilgiris Tea House held our first LOIS Award Evening.

Lois Hunt started working for the TH when she returned from a stint at Hebron School in the Nilgiris, South India. She stayed with us until she went to college in British Columbia for a couple of years. Then back she came to the TH. Next she went to the Philippines to get her midwifery training. When that was done, here she was again. She left and returned several times; but finally, in 2009, we had to adjust to the idea that the next time she left would be somewhat permanent: after Christmas she was moving to New York because Lois Hunt was about to become Lois Lewis ...

One of Lois's many gifts is that she can inspire young people to reach inside themselves and deliver their best - their best efforts, their best attitude, their best accomplishments. Time and again I have seen her taking a rookie teahouse employee and tuck the newbie under her wing and get her or him going on the right track. She listens, she instructs, she teases, she laughs, she corrects, she entrusts, she encourages.

Most of all, she cared. She cared for the customers, cared for the staff, cared that she is giving her best to whatever job is at hand. And she gently led the staff to follow her example.

I was so happy for Lois when Greg won her hand. But I wanted the lessons that Lois taught the TH staff to be valued and remembered and passed on. She inspired me to create a tribute in honour of this selfless, hard-working, dedicated young woman. I called it the LOIS Award.

LOIS stands for Leading Others with Integrity through Service. Lois has never been a leader who feels the need to be in the spotlight, who must make her voice heard at all costs. She said to me so many times, "I just want to be wherever you need me the most." But I have rarely seen anyone who impacted the lives of people around her like Lois did, and does. The TH staff all loved and respected her. She could reach any of them where they were at any given moment in their lives. She keeps in touch with them still.

I felt that the award should be in the nature of a small scholarship, funded by tips I receive from the Monday morning men's group, by recycling bottles, by the occasional little cheque and bills people have shyly handed me to "help someone" through the TH or to "pay it forward" because someone had done something nice for them, or even to put toward the "LOIS fund."  The criteria for the award would be as follows:

  • Grade 12 graduate
  • Worked at the TH for at least a year
  • Continuing on with their studies or going on a mission trip
  • Manifest the characteristics that Lois exemplified: a good attitude, willingness to work hard, and a leader with a quiet, unobtrusive influence among the staff.
This summer we had our first LOIS Award recipient.

Brent Benavides started working at the TH three years ago. He was one of Lois's proteges and under her tutelage grew from a timid lad to a confident young man who could set aside his apprehensions and natural reticence and tackle anything I threw at him. For example, one Sunday the cook called in sick very shortly before we were to open. Brent stepped up and took charge in the kitchen: he plated, garnished and served 31 roast beef dinners, plus quiches with salad, soup, and a steady stream of desserts, all without the slightest glitch. He gave direction to the two younger employees in the kitchen and got them to work well together as a unit.

Brent had just turned 18 years old.

He graduated from high school in June and now Mount Royal University in Calgary beckons. Such an occasion demanded that we close the TH at 5 p.m. on Saturday to celebrate this exceptional young man.

The evening started with "Coach's Corner", where "Coach Arnie Timothy frm Newfoundland" and a substitute recommended by Grapes himself, conducted an interview with Brent, complete with guests on the panel who discussed Brent's prowess in hockey; his leadership at school as President of the Student Council; his dedication to His Singers, a high school choir; and his work at the TH.

Coach, of course talked about Brent's entertainment career, his political career, his sports career, and his culinary career. As Don Cherry does in Coach's Corner on Saturday hockey games, Coach Timothy nearly stole the show ... until he said it was time to cut to commercial break and Brent responded, "There is one more thing before we go to commercial break ..." and handed Coach a silver tray on which rested a pot of Earl Grey tea and a fantastic tea cup and saucer set painted by Brent in Prairie Sabres colours and decorated with a pair of sabres, Brent's number 4, the date and COACH painted on it.

For the first time ever at the TH, Coach was speechless ...

After that presentation was made and Coach poured himself a cup of tea, Dad spoke a few words of challenge to Brent, at my request.

Dad told of the story of Daniel from the Bible, applying it to Brent as the latter got ready to leave his home and move into the larger world of university. Dad pointed out how Daniel purposed in his heart to do what is right, he prayed, and he prospered; and all of that could come about because of Daniel's conviction, his companions, his confidence in God, his consistency, and his continuation of good practices throughout his long life. Brent and his four closest high school companions listened intently as Dad spoke.

Then it was time to eat: I asked Dr. Oswaldo Benavides, Brent's Dad, to offer thanks in Spanish, and everyone eagerly filled their plates from the table laden with an array of tempting delicacies artfully arranged by Krista, who had come back to pitch in for the occasion ... Krista's presence also gave me an opportunity to thank her for the magnificent job she did for us over the past eight months. Truly this young woman is an artist as well as a thinker. She is clear sighted and focussed. She is disciplined and beyond hard-working. She kept me on track for the last few months and I am so grateful to her for her continued presence in my life. But I still want to see her dance ...


When everyone looked like they were satisfied, I presented the first LOIS Award to Brent, touching lightly on how he lived out the characteristics; but as I was speaking my heart was heavy, knowing how much I and the TH will miss this very talented, very capable, very committed young man with his keen mind and attention to detail and his humble heart and spirit. He is worth more than six kings and six saints, as one of my charmingly erudite friends would put it.

All the best at Mount Royal, Brent! Come back and visit us often: we'll save "your" apron for you ...


  1. What a lovely initiative and inspired award this is!

    Lois = LOIS
    Congratulations, Lois, for having an award named in your honour!

    Karyn = LOIS
    Congratulations, Karyn, for conceiving and nurturing and birthing the LOIS award! You are one and the same as its namesake. Yet again the Tea Bag leaves a story and a lingering fragrance like no other!

    Brent = LOIS
    CONGRATULATIONS, BRENT!! For being the person you are to receive this first award. You deserve it! All the best in your first year in University!!

    You guys are the change you wish to see in the world! Thanks for always serving this customer with such grace!

  2. "Coach Arnie Timothy"September 3, 2010 at 12:41 AM

    Thanks for putting it on Karyn. It was a super enjoyable evening, I heard many good comments about it. I did hang around and visit family before my flight back to the rock, thanks again for allowing us to host the show at your outstanding Tea House. It is very classy and the food served that evening was very up scale. Only thing missing was cod tongues, oh well they aren't likely available here in the west.

    Coach Arnie

  3. Following the life of the TH on this blog is almost as good as having first balcony seats in a grand concert hall !


  4. Just a great evening you had for Brent.Karyn You are a working warrior,you just dont seem to miss out on anything So considerate and looking after everyone .Many wonder how you do what you do and what a cook we wont even go there , but dont forget you have to start looking after Karyn to.


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