Over the Thanksgiving weekend, we went to Southern California to visit HapaPapa’s family. Along with the usual turkey dinner, shopping, and football watching, we made a trek to the La Brea Tar Pits and The Grove. At the end of a long day, we decided to stop at the historic Farmer’s Market for dinner. If you haven’t been there, some of the booths have been there since the 1930s: old fashioned ice cream, Jewish delis, sushi, shawermas, Chinese food.
Since there was a large group of us, including picky children, we split up to order food from different vendors. I zoomed in on a fish counter, with the intention of picking up something for my kids (who were on the verge of a low-sugar meltdown). My father-in-law also requested a fish and chips plate and a bowl of chowder, and my mother-in-law decided to help me carry the food. I bellied up to the counter:
“Two fish and chips dinners and a clam chowder, please.”
“Will that be halibut or cod?” the girl asked.
I glanced at the chalkboard menu. The handwritten script was pretty, but hard to decipher in a hurry. The line was growing, so I didn’t want to ask too many questions. The cod was a few dollars cheaper.
“Cod will be fine.”
“What size clam chowder? A cup or a bowl?”
“Umm, a bowl?”
“A bread bowl?” the girl asked, pointing to a loaf of sourdough.
“No thanks.” And then, realizing that I hadn’t thought about what I was going to eat, quickly added, “And a fried oyster plate.”
“And another fish and chips,” my mother-in-law added.
“That’ll be $69,” the clerk announced, as I suddenly noticed the CASH ONLY sign, realizing I only had a $20 bill in my wallet.
“I need to get some cash from my husband,” I whispered, hoping that I didn’t seem like I was fishing for a free meal.
“Oh, I got it,” MIL announced, fumbling around her purse.
Suddenly, a $100 bill landed on the counter.
“It’s on me,” a voice announced. I turned around to find a Black woman who I had never met before.
Before I could manage a response, MIL asked, “Why?”
“Do you believe in God?” our benefactor asked.
“Yes!” MIL replied.
“I had a feeling,” the woman said. “It’s how we should treat each other. It’s what the holidays are about.”
“Thank you,” I stammered, feeling awkward about accepting such a generous gift a stranger. She was taking her meal t0-go, and I glanced at her as she gathered her bag. She had three little kids with her. She was dressed simply in jeans and a t-shirt and her arms were covered with tattoos.
Angels don’t always look the way we expect them to.
Have you ever been the recipient of a random act of kindness? Would you buy dinner for an absolute stranger (and her entire family)?