He was tall and thin, of indeterminate middle age and with a pock-marked face. He commented about the weather, almost shyly while standing a little apart from the line in the fast food restaurant. My husband, David, and I had stopped on our way home from a Rotary training seminar, to get coffee and a bite to eat.
Since he was alone, we told him to go ahead in front of us. As he moved into the line he remarked that the young boy in front of him had more money than he did. He mumbled that he just wanted something to eat, a chicken leg.
Then he began pacing the length of the food counter, and I noticed he was exceptionally thin. He came back towards us in line and when it was his turn, it was clear that he was confused. He quietly said something to the cashier, she didn’t understand. He tried again, but once again speaking too quietly. Wanting to help, I repeated his request to the cashier.
She asked for clarification. He didn’t understand her question. After another failed attempt at clarification, I stepped up beside him and helped place his order, along with ours. I then showed him how to fill his drink cup and another woman gave him a lid and straw. Meanwhile looks of discomfort and even some contempt came from the restaurant staff and other customers.
Service was painfully slow, and he became even more agitated as we waited for the food to arrive. The little boy tried to help, showing him where we wait while the food was being prepared. We continued to wait, while the confused man paced.
Finally, the food arrived, and David passed him his meal and said ‘Enjoy!’ The man looked confused and asked if he needed to pay; we again told him to enjoy his meal and he understood he didn’t need to pay.
Turned around, and a little agitated, he mumbled a question, “How do I get out?” David pointed to the doors and he quickly slipped through, again into the shadows.
As David and I sat down to our food a woman came to our table and said “Bless you! I saw what you did. Bless you.” I was shocked, because honestly, my heart wasn’t so pure. I just wanted to expedite the food line, and it was a simple gesture to get the hungry man a bite to eat.
Maybe I was open to ‘Service Above Self’ because I had just left an inspirational Rotary meeting. Or maybe it was that I had myself, unexpectedly received a free meal earlier that morning from a stranger. Our hotel had lost power the night before and was still in the dark when we awoke in the morning. Getting dressed, with the help of the smartphone flashlight, I noticed a message from a fellow Rotarian Facebook friend, Steven Day. I didn’t know Steven, except through Facebook, yet he generously invited us to his room for biscuits, donuts and the all-important elixir of the morning, coffee! What ensued was a wide-ranging and sometimes raucous discussion of all things Rotary. Now, I had a real Rotary friend, and some great ideas to make a difference through Rotary.
Steven was an inspiration to me, and the embodiment of Service Above Self. It appears that our simple act in the restaurant was an inspiration to the lady who blessed us afterwards.
How will you be an inspiration?