Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A truly random act

Last night we decided to go out for dinner. This time, our excuse was that DT and I deserved a rest after spending the day tackling the mother of all organizational projects: The Desk and Filing Cabinet. Without going into gory details, let's just say that The Desk doesn't give up easily, and it was only with startling bravery and steadfast determination that we won. But win we did. HAH!

So, we ended up at our favorite local Indian place for dinner. When we arrived at the fashionable family-oriented time of 5:05pm, there was, somewhat surprisingly, a couple already there, sharing a thali. We executed our typical drill of ordering the kids' meals before we were fully seated, since hell hath no fury like a child stuck in a wooden high chair with nothing to eat for 20 minutes, and settled in.

WonderGirl and Rocco were, for once, simultaneously on the peak of the sine wave that is kid behavior -- WonderGirl was coloring relatively quietly and only occasionally tricking Rocco into trading his full-length crayons for useless nubs, while Rocco was doing his best "I love you" smile to the other couple in the restaurant. Although they seemed friendly, I was trying to keep Rocco distracted and focused on our table, because it's obviously a bit awkward and creepy when someone's toddler is trying to seduce you while you eat. Instead of being irritated, though, the couple struck up a conversation with us, the man telling us that watching Rocco had made his wife tell him she wanted a baby. We joked about how they should stick around for the inevitable kid-splosion that would come later, and see how they felt about fertility and its aftermath at that point.

As our food came, we kept talking intermittently; the couple had never been to this restaurant before, and was asking what we'd ordered, because it looked better than their meal. They were friendly and interested in food, which is all DT or I really need to know about people. Eventually, they put on their coats and got up to leave.

As they passed our table, the man put a receipt down and said, "Your dinner is paid for. Happy New Year." DT and I both sat with our mouths open; apparently, "agape" is a cliched but apt description in that situation. We did manage to say thank you, and start to protest, but it didn't matter because they were grinning and pretty much ran out of the door. We didn't have much time to react.

I'm still not sure how to react. Here are the basics, as I see them:

  • We didn't need the generosity, weren't in military uniforms, don't look particularly needy.
  • Even though the above is true, these strangers still bought us dinner, for absolutely no reason.
  • I was nearly in tears for almost an hour afterwards; just writing about it now is bringing back the drizzly eyes.
  • It is stunning how much a small (or not-so-small, we eat a lot) gesture can affect you. Being on the receiving end makes it clear just how much random kindnesses can matter.
  • I wish I knew a way to bottle that initial rush of surprise and appreciation; it's inspiring at the time but turns cheesy pretty quickly.
  • For both DT and I, our first reaction was that we had to do something to make up for the fact that we didn't deserve the unexpected generosity. His first thought was to donate the amount of the dinner to a charity; mine was to resolve to give someone else that same sort of unexpected (and probably unneeded) surprise. I think we'll do both. I hope that we grin as much as they did.
Happy New Year, indeed. What a wonderful start.


Suz said...

What a great story! You gave something special to that couple, were a part of their lives, without even realizing it. And they passed it back. That's just lovely.

Nikki-ann said...

That's wonderful! There isn't many people like that around.