This story was written Christmas of 2014…and I still remember it all as if it were yesterday:
The Year I Almost Missed Christmas
It was the day before Christmas Eve, and we were getting ready to hit the road for our holiday travels. We had decided that [on the way out of town] we would stop at a popular breakfast restaurant and grab a quick bite to eat before making our way north. We have gotten pretty good at eating out with our kids…as long as the hostess, the cooks in the kitchen, and the servers all cooperate with our need to be in and out as quickly as possible.
We entered the restaurant, and seeing that there was only a slight wait, we decided to stick around ’til our name was called. Our slight wait turned in to a little more than we had anticipated, but I did my best to keep a smile on my face. David turned to me and said, “I have a bad feeling about this…we need to leave now.” to which I sweetly replied, “Oh, it will be fine – I think our name is next on the list.” Thankfully, our children were being occupied by the smiles and waves coming from a sweet elderly couple seated on a nearby bench. I gave polite smiles in return while secretly thanking Heaven that our kids had something holding their attention while our “We’ll have you a table in just a second!” turned in to a painfully long wait…okay, maybe it was just 10-15 minutes, but that is an eternity when you’re attempting to occupy a one-year old and a three-year old….
…The hostess stepped forward and called out, “Phillip! C’mon, Phillip! We’ve got your table ready…the one that you love the most.” The elderly couple stood and began to hobble toward their seats. I couldn’t help but notice how Phillips’s wife carefully held on to his hand as they made their way away from the bench. I smiled at David and said, “That is going to be us someday.” but then I had another thought, Phillip and his wife were free entertainment…now what are we going to do with our kids while we wait?
An hour later (okay, actually just a few minutes later), they seated us at a table…a table that was located in sight of Phillip’s…though throughout our meal, I didn’t pay him or his wife much more attention…
The wait to order was not any better than the wait to be seated…It took an eternity for the waitress to take our drink order and then even longer for her to take our food order. After finally being able to tell her what we wanted to eat, we found ourselves somewhat desperate…heading to the car to get snacks for our youngest….pulling weird objects out of my purse in hopes that they would occupy our children for even a split second (sunglasses…bent paperclips…old candy wrappers). We let our kids play with the spoons and forks…We built towers with the sugar packets…We played with the packets of apple butter…These things are typically no-no’s, but folks, sometimes you reach a point where all the rules go out the window…At this point, I had started to lose count of how many times David said, “I told you we should have left…I knew this was a bad idea…”
As we began to run out of games and activities that can be carried out using eating utensils and condiment packages, I felt myself start to boil. What is wrong with this place? This is NOT the first time we’ve had an experience like this here. Has the waitress not even considered bringing us some biscuits or crackers with which to occupy our little ones? Why has everyone else around us (including Phillip and his wife) received their food?
By this point, my littlest was not going to stand for being in his highchair (without food) one second longer, so I stood up…and held him on my hip…and watched toward the kitchen…praying that our food would be delivered soon.
It was in these moments when I decided that I WOULD be speaking with a manager, and I WOULD NOT be paying for this meal.
Moments later, our food was delivered. No apologies from the waitress were included, and this made me even more upset. What is wrong with people? (Friends, I hope you’re enjoying this ugly glimpse in to my mind.)
We scarfed down our food…all while complaining how late we were going to be…and discussing the fact that we would NEVER eat at this place again. David offered to take the kids to the car while I dealt with the bill. Yes, he’s wonderful…but I must tell you that the reason he offered to do this is because He would rather walk on needles than have a discussion with the manager of a restaurant. That’s not his thing.
As we were gathering up our things…the highchair cover…the snack wrappers…the twelve sippy cups that had somehow made their way in to the restaurant…(you get the idea)…I spotted Phillip chatting with our waitress…and realized exactly what he was doing. He was asking for our bill…He was going to pay our bill. Ladies and Gentlemen, I felt like I had been punched in the gut…
Had Phillip been watching us? Had he seen us rolling our eyes? Had he noticed me huffing and puffing? Had he heard us talking about what an awful experience this had been?
As he hobbled toward the checkout, I walked up behind him…I put my arm around his shoulder and whispered in his ear, “Sir, you just made our day.” He turned toward me, pulled me in to the tightest hug I think I’ve ever received, and through deep sobs said, “You have no idea how much your little boys have meant to us today.”
As I pulled away from him, I locked eyes with a server who explained to me that Phillip and his wife are regulars…His wife has dementia and oftentimes is not sure where she is…
…I turned and quickly made my way to the restroom where I found a stall and had one of the ugliest cries I’ve had in a long time…What was this elderly’s couple story? Did they have any children? Would they be spending Christmas with family? What would the next year or two look like for Phillip?
I had decided that I WOULD NOT be paying for my meal, but I had no idea that the payment would come in the form of a simple act of kindness…a gesture that immediately shut down my bad attitude and reminded me of the spirit of Christmas…giving to others…even when they may not deserve our kindness.
Christmas was right in front of me…and I almost missed it.