As we were driving to Portland for Thanksgiving, Kurt and I stopped at a restaurant in western Wyoming for dinner. Restaurant is rather a grand name for the place. It reeked of small town: an old building with decaying decor and places where repairs were left half-finished. It had a bar, an electronic dart board, a small stage, and unplugged video games lined up like dinosaurs against a wall. The most expensive things there were the flat screen TVs and they looked out of place. Still, you sensed this might be a local haven, like Holling’s bar in Northern Exposure, a place people come in the depths of winter just to get out of the house.
As we sat eating in silence, numb from our long drive, two men and a woman, all dressed in dirty jumpsuits, came in and sat at the table next to us. All three of them were big, strong, and dirty. They looked like people who used their hands and worked outside for a living. Tough people with tough lives.
The waitress took their orders and we realized the team was temporarily stationed at the oil refinery nearby. We’d seen it from the highway that night, a tiny city lit up like Christmas, set down in the middle of nowhere.
Then the waitress asked them if they would be around for Thanksgiving, if they had to work that day. They said that they would be in town but they didn’t know their work schedule.
Her next words astonished me. She told them that, if they didn’t have anywhere else to go, they were welcome to come to her house for Thanksgiving dinner.
This woman has a kindness and a courage I do not. She invited three strangers to dinner at her house. She was willing to let them join her family and be part of her holiday celebrations. She realized that they might feel lonely, so far from their own homes and families on Thanksgiving day, and that was more important to her than her own comfort or her expectations for her annual family gathering.
My heart melted. A simple gesture, but a meaningful one. This is what Thanksgiving and Christmas are all about.
I do not know if they took her up on her offer; they still weren’t sure if they had to work or not. But even if they didn’t, that waitress will ever stand in my mind as a great example of simple human kindness and how we should all strive to act during the holidays.
Have you witnessed any acts of kindness during the holidays? A moment that reminded you that the holidays are about more than eating turkey and opening presents?