A very lovely elderly gentleman comes into our restaurant about once a week and has the same thing every time: a glass of chardonnay, a starter caesar salad followed by a light rib dinner and then a cup of coffee. He used to do radio and he certainly has the voice for it. He has had a lot of issues with his eyes and has even come in with bandages over them from having had surgery.
He always eats alone, always has a very soft smile when he speaks to me, and he always remembers our last conversation.
Last night another regular of mine sat at a table near to him. A woman in her 50’s. She drips with that nurturing type of nature that the best nurses always have (yes, she is a nurse and she lit up the face of my husband’s Grandma every time she came in to care for her when she had a stroke a few summer back). Her husband died suddenly last fall. She comes in about once a week with a friend, or one of her adult children, or her niece.
She is always warm and gentle.
The two regulars exchanged a few words. I served my gentleman customer and we talked about my school. I found out that he had spent Easter alone. My other woman customer was treating an elderly couple and a friend to dinner. They finished first. Before my lady customer left, she caught me at the door:
“Does that gentleman come in here often?”
“I’d like to pay for his meal”
“I just know what it’s like to eat alone”
As he drank his coffee, I printed out a blank bill and wrote:
A customer wanted to pay for your meal. They could tell that you deserved to be treated tonight
When he pulled his credit card out, I folded the “bill” and placed it face down on the table. I served another table before coming back to him.
“I’m having trouble understanding this”
“Who would do this?”
“I have never had anyone do anything like this for me”
His eyes were teary and he had a stunned expression on his face. He couldn’t get over it.
“No one has ever done anything like that for me before”
Was repeated over and over again.
He said that he wished he could say thank-you. I told him that he’ll come across somebody somewhere that he could do a kind thing for and that would be what the person that paid for his meal would want.
I’m cashing out at the end of the night. I find out one of the young cooks had his car break down on the side of the road on his way into work. He has two little kids. Money is tight. He doesn’t have BCAA. I call my mother in law and explain.
“Give me a few minutes to change out of my pj’s”
He gave me that same stunned look as I asked for his keys and asked him what auto shop he would like his car towed to.
As my mother in law and I sat on the side of the highway waiting for BCAA to come, I told her about my customers. She knew the nurse (as it was her mother that the nurse cared for).
“Her husband used to go to Safeway every Sunday morning before church. He would buy food and put it in the trunk of his car. He always found someone who needed a bag of groceries as he was leaving after the church service.”
I was reminded last night to care for others. Life can get so insanely busy and it can be so easy to be too distracted to miss those opportunities to help someone out.
Little things have a huge impact on others when it’s offered in the spirit of thoughtfulness.
The spirit of that woman’s husband was in her paying for a meal. The ripple was in the server (and her mother in law) helping out a young dad.
Not only did her kindness impact that man, but it impacted the person who witnessed it.
You never know who’s watching, and you never know the ripple effect your actions can have.