Claire Ballor, Commentary Editor
You probably know her as Ms. Pati, but her name is actually Barbara Patricia Light and if you know anything about her, you know that her last name could not be more fitting to her character. If you’ve ever walked into the cafeteria or the Rat, she has probably greeted you with a smile and called you by name if she’s had the chance to learn it. Ms. Pati is just one of the many caring people who serve us on a daily basis, and in one way or another, we’ve probably all had an interaction with her. But how many of us have actually taken the time to get to know her?
I sat down with Ms. Pati to get to know the woman behind the smile and the black Aramark uniform. She wasn’t always the light on campus that she is now. In fact, she came to the University of Dallas without a smile at all, afraid to open herself up and terrible at remembering people’s names.
“When I came here I was so shy. I wasn’t used to being around people that were so positive and had so much to bring to my life,” she recalled.
“A month after I started working here, I went to a baseball game with my husband and some UD students who were there had to introduce themselves to him because I didn’t know their names. From that point on I knew I had to learn who the people were around me and I wanted to, and I have made it a point ever since,” she said.
Ms. Pati has become an icon of the UD cafeteria and she attributes this to the kindness that has been shown to her by the UD community. She now uses her stature to reach out to as many students as possible in order to make a difference in a community that she credits for so much of her own personal growth.
“Everyone here has treated me so well and I feel that I want to give back to this place,” she said. “Sometimes when I think about it I get emotional. The kids here help me to be a better person; they have completely enriched and nourished me in every way.”
As a mother to a son with Asperger’s syndrome, she stresses the importance of spreading unconditional kindness to everyone.
“You never know what someone is going through, so I try to read people,” she said. “Reading their reactions and their moods is important in order to get to know them and I try to lighten the mood when I see someone is having a difficult time and ask how they are really doing.”
Surprisingly, one of Ms. Pati’s biggest pet peeves is something that she encounters from students every day.
“I know it is proper grammar, but when I ask someone how they are doing, I don’t want to hear that they are ‘doing well,’” she said. “I want their honest answer whether [they] are doing awesome or having a difficult day. That’s how you really get to know someone.”
The message she wants to drive home to the UD community is to “pay it forward.” It is a mantra that we should all embody, one that we should all spread.
“I want to encourage students to make a new friend, to sit with someone who is eating alone, to smile at everyone and to pay it forward,” she said. “You never know what that could lead to.”