Sometimes we are too busy with our own life going on that we don’t appreciate nor do we understand what it means to take an hour out of our day to spend with someone.
Over the last 10 years I have met some wonderful people through my work. People who have struggled financially, people who are very successful in the business community and others whom merely exist. Each of these people has taught me something about themselves, myself, or life in general. My job is unique in that I don’t just sit behind a desk and push papers – because of the nature of my work I can at times become very involved with the lives my customers live.
We have our regulars who call and call and call. Sometimes I think they are lonely and just want someone to talk with. Over the past few years I have gotten to “know” one such customer. She would call (sometimes 3 times a day) and ask to speak with me. Of course, many times when she would call I would roll my eyes and unwillingly pick up the phone trying to end the call as quickly as I could.
The week between Christmas and New Years was no exception She phoned to wish me the best, to tell me all about her Christmas and of all the company she had. She had a birthday coming up on the Epiphany and she wanted me to guess how old she would be (I am so not good at guessing ages), nor did I want to guess incorrectly, but I guessed that she would be 83 – low and behold I was right! We talked for about 20 minutes that day about this, that and the other thing and our phone conversation ended with her inviting me to dinner to have a piece of birthday cake with her. It couldn’t be on Friday because she “didn’t serve meat on Friday’s”, but it could be the following Monday. Fair enough. It was a date.
Today was the day. I must admit I was somewhat nervous and a little apprehensive about this as I had never met the lady face-to-face before and I was wandering into unknown territory all by myself. During the course of our conversations she came to realize that she knew my paternal grandmother and thought the world of her and she knew people who knew my Dad, so I assumed everything would be ok.
When I arrived she greeted me with such a smile and a warmest invitation to come in. She was a typical “little old lady” – house dress, house jacket, knee highs – the whole bit. When I walked into her living room it was like entering my grandmother and grandfathers house back in the mid-seventies. Everything has coats upon coats of white paint on it, there were crocheted afghans everywhere and lots of Catholic pictures and statues placed around the room.
We sat and chatted for a few minutes as the potatoes were still cooking and she showed me many of her birthday cards that she received. She was so proud of them all. I handed her a card that I had picked up for her and after she read it she told me it was the most beautiful card she ever received.
She soon told me to take my seat at the table as she was ready to serve “a big dinner” and she hoped I was hungry. I normally don’t eat lunch and I knew that Mike had roast cooking for supper so I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t be able to eat it all. I sat at the table which was nicely set with a lace place mat, fork, knife, spoon and serviette. A beautiful old china plate was placed in front of me that was burgundy with a pretty floral pattern on it.
On the plate was a small scoop of cream potatoes, green peas, chow and 3 slices of canned ham. She placed the same thing at her place setting, said a blessing and told me to enjoy my meal with the biggest smile you could possibly imagine.
Instantly I was like a different person. I was so honored to be there sharing dinner with her. And it was the best dinner I have had in a long time. I enjoyed every bite as I listened to her tell stories about people she knew and times she had lived. I told her when I had my plate cleaned how delicious it was and she beamed. She was afraid it wouldn’t be “good enough for Tracey”. I told her it was absolutely perfect for Tracey.
She then brought out the piece of cake that she saved for me. On a small paper plate there was a tiny sliver of birthday cake that was 6 days old and wrapped in aluminum foil waiting for me. I had a choice between 7-Up and tea so I chose 7-Up which was served to me in a small styrofoam cup. She was scared the cake would be stale but she kept it wrapped and hoped it would be ok until I was able to have it today because she promised me a piece of cake. Again, it was perfect.
Before I knew it, my lunch hour was over and I had to excuse myself to get back to work – not empty handed mind you. I left with fruitcake and shortbread cookies that were leftover from Christmas because she doesn’t let anyone leave her house without something. I thanked my host from the bottom of my heart for one of the most lovely dinners I have ever had. I left with an invitation to come back again someday which I accepted with a smile.
How can less than an hour make such a impact on someone’s life? Believe me it can. I was humbled today by a lady almost 43 years my senior whom I have tried to rush off the phone more than once. Today I realized what that woman had to offer me.
Through a simple dinner date I was once again shown how fortunate I am, how blessed I am and how others are fortunate and blessed as well. This woman shared with me today what she had, treated me like a Queen and fed me a feast.
I think we may both sleep tonight with a smile on our face.