I’m not sure if I’ve done this before at The Gilmore Guide but I’m going to break from books and share something personal—a holiday story. This year feels more fraught with negativity than any I can remember in a long time. And not in my little life but in the country and world at large. There is so much noise and so little of it is positive. This is my Christmas past, recapped from my journal (and edited for length because I write a lot of detail in my journal!).
In 2007, we lived in Utah and I had a job I loved as a pharmaceutical librarian. Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt and despite my best efforts, after 6 months I had no job leads and my unemployment benefits had run out. I had never been without a job before and this plus the fact that Utah was a difficult place for me for a number of reasons left me very stressed and depressed. I had expanded my job search to the Pacific Northwest so when a dear friend who lived in Portland offered me his apartment for a few days before Christmas I decided to go and scope out the city and job opportunities.
Because of my money fears, I was very frugal—buying groceries and cooking, but I decided that on Christmas Eve I would splurge on a nice meal. I found a restaurant nearby that was lovely and looked special enough for Christmas Eve dinner alone. Blonde wood, lots of candles, high ceilings, wine bottles along the wall. Everything warm and glow-y. Here I was going to let go of all my fears about a job and money. The best way to start seemed to be champagne (isn’t it always?!) so I decided to order a glass. As I waited for my meal I sat back and listened to the conversations around me, everyone happy, friends meeting up, and couples celebrating the holiday.
In between my salad and my entrée, a woman came in and was seated across from me at another table for two. I thought we must be in the singles row. She looked a bit like Diane Keaton with streaked short hair, very well put together. She pulled out a book and started reading. I noticed that she did the same things I do to keep her hands free- balance a knife or saucer on the spine of the book to hold it open. As our meals progressed I looked at this woman on and off and thought that it could be me in 10 years and that would be just fine. She was at ease being alone and so was I. I was completely in the moment, happy to listen to the people next to me, watch the people around me, and enjoy my surroundings.
After my meal, I decided to keep up the extravagance and order a rich holiday dessert—pear and fig bread pudding. The woman across from me finished and left. I wished I’d been braver and asked her what she was reading, but also felt as if it might be intruding. I finished my delicious dessert and was perfectly relaxed and content. The waitress, Heather, came over to clear my plate and said, “I have something to tell you.” I asked what and she asked if I noticed the woman across from me. I said yes and hesitated. She said, “Well, she paid for your entire meal, including my tip. You can leave whenever you want.” I was stunned and could not speak. Finally, I said, “Wait, what?! What do you mean? Why would she do that?” She said the woman told her that I looked happy and was taking care of myself by ordering champagne and dessert. Then she said that the woman said, “She reminds me of myself when I was younger.” I could not breathe. I touched the waitress’ arm and said, “No! I was looking at her thinking that could be me in 10 years and I would be just as happy.” By now both of us had tears in our eyes. I said I could not believe someone would do something like that. Heather squeezed my hand and I got up to leave. When I got outside it was snowing, unusual for Portland, but big, soft white flakes. I started to cry. Who would do such a kind thing for a stranger? I had let go of my fear and worry and was prepared to pay for a special meal and instead someone gave me this gift. I am satiated with delicious food and champagne and humbled by a stranger’s generosity. I am deeply deeply touched and grateful.
A lovely little miracle, right? All true. I had forgotten it until I had a chance to do a small act of kindness for a stranger yesterday and she was so touched she hugged me. It made me happier than any gift and I remembered when a stranger was kind to me. It’s not much, but I hope that not only does each and every person reading this have something wonderful happen to them VERY soon, but that you do the same for someone else. There is a lot of anger and ignorance out there right now and even a smile to someone who looks or sounds different than you do could make a difference in their day. It’s called kindness and we simply do not have enough of it anymore.
Happy holidays, everyone, I am so grateful for your support of my blog.