´¯`•. June 21, 2017

The Mysterious Mitzvah

Here’s where we take a little break, and I tell you a story about what happened last night.  Not a little story, but trust me, it’s worth it.

Once upon a time, we lived in a town about an hour and a half north of where we live, now.  I got deeply involved with a theatre group as a way to replace church in my life, because I was at a bad place, personally.  I made some friends in the group – an assorted handful, which for me is a lot – but for the most part, I wasn’t one of the golden stars.  I was/am okay with that – it was more about expression and release than glory, for me.  I was there to purge emotional hurt.

What I found out was that reaching out to purge hurts brings on more hurts, because it’s reaching out, and people hurt.  Long story short, I left the theatre group on jaded terms,and have no intention of ever going back.  That we moved just solidified that, further.  But I’m still friends with that small handful of good-hearted people, on-line.

One of them is a guy I got to know while doing a stint as ‘The Baroness’ in Sound of Music.  He’s one of the good-hearted few, and we’re friends on FB.  His father is a town historian, and so he’s very involved in the small museums, up there.  I didn’t even know there were museums in town, until I met him, truth be told.  And it’s been a goal of mine to some Sunday drive up and take the bike trail up there (best in West Michigan, if you ask me), and stop at the museums.

Well, last week my friend sent a FB invitation to an event at one of the museums:

In 1889, the first [this town] man died fighting in the Pacific Theater. The men of [this town] would be fighting again from the Day of Infamy to the bomb drop on Nagasaki. Learn about some of the battles these brave soldiers faced.  Event admission free, 7pm-9pm.

Here’s where I admit I jumped to conclusions.  See, we went to a firefighter museum a while ago for a ‘Night at the Museum’ event, and I thought this was a similar ‘Night at the Museum’ event – if it’s 7pm to 9pm, and my actor friend was inviting me, I thought it would be people dressed up in period war uniforms, and we could visit the museum AND hear stories from the time.  That was my perception of it.  Please keep in mind that I came up with that, myself.

So we drove up to our old town, and… we were really early.  We got there at 6:20.  So we decided to drive around town and see what had changed, drive by our old house, my ex-BFF’s house (she’d said they were going to build a house on to the back of their house, for more room… they sort of have, too!), our old church, the theatre building, some friend’s house that I heard was for sale (moving boxes towering on their porch, now!)… we were driving all over, showing the kids where they saw their first movie, where Mama worked at the newspaper, where the interesting things in town were.  And when we looked at the clock, it was 7:10.  But I figured if it was from 7pm-9pm, we didn’t have to be there right at seven, right?

WRONG.  We got drove back to the museum, the parking lot was somewhat filled with cars (it’s a modest event), and we went up to the doors, and they were locked. There’s a sign on the door that says, “Historian [my friend’s Dad] is giving a lecture at 7pm, followed by a discussion and question time.”

Oops.   It was not an open museum with actors.  It was a presentation, and we were seriously late, and… we missed it.  In my defense, it didn’t SAY THAT on the FaceBook event.  But it’s still my fault – I jumped to conclusions, and we screwed up.

(NoTe:  MOST of my time in that town, I felt like a screw-up.  Like I did everything wrong, and that’s not the norm, for me.  And it felt like the harder I tried, the more I failed, and that people were looking down at me for failing.  Granted, I don’t try at all, where we are now.  And it’s peaceful, and I’m not a failure in anyone’s eyes.  But it’s made me forget how HARD it was, living up there.  Trying to succeed and constantly falling short.  Personal angst, just admitting it.  It was a relief to move away.)

So there we were, having driven an hour and a half one way… and we missed the event.  I was pretty disappointed.  Well… at least we had fun exploring and lazily traveling around our old haunts, so there was that.  It’s fun to revisit, although I experience NO desire to move back there, in spite of the fact that it’s the closest thing to a ‘home town’ that this AF brat ever experienced.  But even with the relaxed visit… I was feeling down about failing yet again, disappointing [mostly] myself.

It was suppertime, and it being three days to payday and us having bought extra electrical for the machine out of this check, we were kinda tight on cash.  I’d figured we could just hit McD’s after the museum, but now that there was no museum, it felt like driving all the way north for McDonald’s was kind of wrong.  So I told Brian we should go for Mexican – something ‘special’, even though it would dent our finances.  We’d make it up, eventually, and we could – technically – swing it.  And this trip felt like it needed something definitive.  And of course the kids geeked – MEXICAN!!! – and Brian never turns down Mexican.  So we went.

As we walked in, it’s supper hour, so it’s busy… and with seven of us, we’re no small group.  There’s a big table by the door, but there’s a solitary man sitting, back facing us, at it.  We’re taken into a back room, as a result… right past a member of my old theatre group.  I recognized her right away, but it’s been twelve years.  I’ve had half a dozen babies, and look nothing like I did, back then.  I’m chubby middle-aged mom-ish person, now.  I don’t think she recognized me.  Our gazes met, her’s lingered that one second longer than casual glance… so I wasn’t sure.  It’s also possible that because I was never one of the golden stars, she recognized me, and totally blew me off.  This would not surprise me in the least.  Memories of this town aren’t the happiest, recall.

So we’re seated three tables away from her, and I tell Brian who/where she is.  He recognizes her, right away.  It’s one of those, ‘let’s not disturb people while they’re dining, and besides, we’ve got FIVE kids along to oversee’ things… so we/I just decide that it’d be easier for them to say hi, if they want to.  Which they probably won’t.  And I expect that.

Fifteen minutes later, she and her partner get up and leave.  They don’t stop and say hi. I am not hurt – I anticipated that.  It’s the way it is, with that town.  And me.  It wasn’t good, it isn’t good, and it won’t be good.  Aside from the small handful of good hearted friends… and this was not one of them.  I understand this.

Then…!  Five minutes later?
Our waiter comes and gives Brian a gift card. 
“Someone wanted me to give this to you,”  he tells us, shrugging.

WHOA…!?!  So we’re looking wide-eyed at each other.
“[Theatre lady]?”  I asked.
“No…”  Brian says.
“But she’s the only one we know.” I reason.
“No.”  Brian says.
“But who else could it be???”  I ask him.
“She wouldn’t have,”  he assures me.
“I didn’t think she recognized us, but… Who else?”
We have no answer.

Now, this is not the first time this has ever happened to us.  Once we were at a restaurant, and our bill never came, and when Brian asked our waitress, she said, “Oh, there was an elderly man who took it.  He said he was going to buy your supper, because you had such a lovely family.”  Which… okay, you have to understand that we’re a BIG GROUP.  So that’s huge, you know?  And another time an older (not elderly, but older) couple bought us a giant pizza cookie at Pizza Hut, and came over to tell us what they’d done, ‘because they rarely saw such well-behaved children, and were happy to have been able to watch our family while they ate’.  This has happened before, you see.  And more than just those two times – there was one gentleman who carried half-dollar rolls, so he could give fifty-cent pieces to ‘good’ children – and all of my kids were given one.  One man gave out gift coupons for ice creams to McDonalds – we were given those.  So this isn’t unusual.

But we weren’t expecting this.  And that it probably was a woman that I know, and who I thought would completely ignore us?!  That was pretty astounding.  Both Brian and I were speechless.  (Not to mention we’d been stretching to go for Mexican, and maybe this might take the edge off?)  It was a blessing – a true blessing from Yehovah, at a time when I was feeling pretty disappointed in myself and the town.  Y’know?

Then, a while later the manager comes over.  “Did you get a gift card?  I want to be sure,” he said.  “Yes,”  Brian agreed, “but do you know who it was from?”  The manager turns around and points to a man I don’t know.  A man coming over to our table.  He’s maybe 45, so just a little older than us… and he stands there while we thank him… and then stands there… and then stands there.  It gets awkward.  I expect Brian to recognize him, because I don’t.  And the man doesn’t say anything about WHY he did it – ‘your kids are well behaved’ or whatever.  He just stands there, SMILING at us.  It was… strange and a little creepy, but… okay.  Thank you.  Just the same, it’s SO nice.  And so unexpected!

And it wasn’t my theatre ‘friend’.
I’m not surprised.

But I was surprised at the random stranger being so kind to us.  Isaac said it was the man sitting alone at the big table, up front.  I never saw his face, so I don’t know, but it could be.

And in the end?  It was a fifty dollar gift card he bought our whole meal for us.  My jaw was on the floor.  I thought maybe it’d be for $10 or $15 or something… just people being kind.  He did a HUGE mitzvah with that, though!!!!  The manager cashed us out.  “Yeah,” he says, “We see people at Christmas time do things like that.  But never in the summer.  Very strange.  Very odd.”  We thought so, too.  But we were grateful.

So whoever you are?  You made our night.  Made MY night – I was disappointed and feeling a little sorry for myself for having screwed everything up… but the gray cloud had a silver lining.

Thanks to you.

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