Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Someone Else's Story

Some months ago, our family went to dinner at a local restaurant and had a most amazing experience. It was a Saturday night and though we had intended to get out of the house in time to avoid the Saturday evening rush, somehow it took a bit longer than we had hoped. When we arrived at our location, the wait was about 25 minutes, there was no where even to sit while waiting, and both children were close to the brink of hysteria. As PC went in search of crackers, a young couple seated at a nearby booth motioned to me.

I went over and the woman said, “we want to give you our table. Your family is so beautiful and as a mother, I don’t want your kids to have to wait for dinner.” I was taken aback. I had never met this woman and she had no obligation to relinquish her table to our family. I thanked her, and made it clear that while we truly appreciated her kindness, it was not necessary. She insisted, and so we were able to be seated and calm the kids.

There are two lessons that I took from this experience. The first lesson is that the actions of a stranger can have a significant impact. We all have a tendency to view society with a hardened eye. Small gestures of kindness, such as this one, have the ability to renew our faith in the human spirit. The rest of our meal had a special overtone to it. Though we would have eventually been seated, this act of g’milut chasadim brought a sense of holiness to our dinner.

I initially had refused the woman’s offer because I couldn’t imagine displacing anyone in order to be seated more quickly. And then the second lesson dawned on me; by accepting the table, I was allowing this woman to perform a mitzvah. Sometimes we are so focused on being independent that we overlook the importance of giving another person the opportunity to do good. When I put the stranger’s kindness into this perspective, I felt as though I had an active role in her performance of a mitzvah rather than being a passive recipient.

Beernut and Poppyseed are too young to have noticed the look of appreciation that passed between the eyes of this thankful and relieved mother and the eyes of a knowing and kind stranger. But this experience will become part of our family story, as I recall the night that an act of kindness touched our lives. And it will become an example from which I pray they will learn.

How will you become part of a stranger’s family story?

2 comments:

PepGiraffe said...

This sounds really familiar. Did this happen awhile ago? Or, more likely, are there more people that do this than our cynical minds suspect?

Gmar Chatima Tova. Et al. :)

Rivster said...

Though I believe that wonderful things like this happen on a frequent basis, I may have written about this in a bulletin article earlier this year.