During a recent road trip with my family, the kids announced the following:
1) It was officially hot outside that day, and
2) They needed “a cool treat.”
After spending more than an hour in traffic, we stopped at a Mexican restaurant for dinner. I had forgotten about the cool treat, and it seemed like everyone was happy to get cold drinks, and chips and salsa to munch on.
When our dinners arrived at the table, a woman sitting across from me caught my eye. I think she asked whether my kids liked ice cream. I nodded yes, smiled, then grabbed my fork and took a bite of my dinner.
The kids began talking, and when I looked up, she motioned for me to come over to her table.
I sighed. My kids were behaving. We weren’t causing any issues. Reluctantly, I got up. I went to her table. I smiled and said hello.
“Could I buy your kids ice cream?” she blurted out.
I paused. I was tempted to say no – because we can pay for our dinner, because I didn’t know her, and because.
However, I understood that she wouldn’t have asked if it weren’t important to her.
“I’d like to buy them ice cream in honor of my niece, who died three years ago,” she said, looking down at her table. She added that she had lost her husband, too.
I realized she was at the restaurant alone.
“Yes,” I said, looking her in the eye. “Thank you.”
I felt compelled to give her something.
“Do you mind if I pray for you?”
Her face lit up with a smile.
“Yes, thank you!” she responded, acting as if I had just given her a gift.
I walked back to my dinner and my family. They were silent, but staring at me.
“She wants to buy you ice cream,” I loud-whispered. “She lost her niece and her husband, and she wants to do something nice for you … why don’t you go and say thank you? I think she’s about to leave.”
The kids put down their forks and went over, together. She wiped tears from her face when they left her table.
The dessert and $6 in change arrived. The server seemed embarrassed as he tried to explain that it was from someone who wanted the kids to have it. He gave each of them $2.
As the kids enjoyed their dessert, I thought about how grateful I was for that moment with my family.
It’s easy to focus on what’s going on day-to-day, and forget to see the beautiful things in the present moment … luxuries, like having loved ones near.
When we got to the car, I realized what had also happened: Those stinkers received their cool treat.
It turned out to be wrapped in unexpected kindness from a stranger and delivered alongside a reminder on what really matters in life.
What a treat, indeed.