The Real Meaning of a Free Lunch


Several days ago, we headed out to our local Mexican food joint to “celebrate” the end of spring break.  My husband was still out-of-town, so my sister joined me and my two children for an evening of yummy food and silly laughter.  In an unusual turn of events, both my sister and I took a gander at the cocktail menu and on a whim, both ordered up some tropical, fruity margaritas – not our usual Thursday night fare.  And when the kids asked (like they always do) for an order of the super yummy, special, secret cheese dip – I indulged them this time. The sun was shining – which can be unusual for supper time in March and the birds may as well have been singing – we were livin’ big!

The kids gave their accounts of our recent trip to the Gulf of Mexico – sea slugs, Man-o-war jellyfish, two stops to the yogurt stand, sand castles, fishing off the beach with Papa, collecting shells with Nana, mini golf and holes in one – all stories that needed to be told.  We all got the giggles when my sister ordered her dinner with her non-existent Spanish accent: “Tah-Keeeeeee-tohs” – always good fun for the little sister in me.  To the random on-looker, I’m sure our demeanor and laughter truthfully displayed a happy gathering.

As we were finishing up our rather indulgent meal, the waitress dropped off the bill.  I put the appropriate plastic in the folder without looking at the total and set it out to be handled by our very pleasant (and patient) waitress.  We continued to gobble up the remaining chips and salsa as I half-heartedly searched for the waitress to come by.  She circled our table without really noticing I was waiting for her – which seemed uncharacteristic based on the service she previously been delivering.  When my belly could no longer handle any more food being mindlessly stuffed down my gullet, I (more aggressively) just waved my hand with the bill in it to try to get her attention.  She paused slightly, and then finally responded to my waving.  She took the bill, casually opened up the folder, took my debit card out, and handed it back to me.  It was like the whole thing happened in slow motion.  I was obviously confused.

“Your bill has been taken care of,” she said.  “Wha – huh?” I very intelligently replied.  “Your bill has already been paid.  The lady that was sitting just over there to your left asked me if she could pay for your meal, but she wanted me to wait until she was gone to tell you.”  I was in complete shock.  I have heard of this happening to others – like in magazine articles, but I was completely at a loss for words – which doesn’t happen enough in my husband’s opinion.  My sister and I looked at each other and rattled off some more blather about “What?  Who?  Are you sure?  Is she still here?  Can we pay your tip?  Are you really sure?”

The waitress continued to reassure us in a very kind manner, so we gathered our things and left with happy dazes on our faces.  I still have no idea why the kind woman decided to take care of our burritos, cheese dip, tacos, margaritas, and tah-keeeee-tohs, but we were all so grateful.  Not just because it was a completely generous and random act of kindness, but because it was contagious.  The kids wanted to immediately find someone whose dinner they could secretly pay for.  They brainstormed ideas in the back of the van on the way home of other ways to secretly help someone – “Let’s pay for somebody else’s food the next time we go to Panera!  Yeah – or no, let’s leave extra money at the dry cleaners for someone else’s Dads’ shirts!  No – let’s buy some Happy Meals for the car behind us next time we go through a drive-thru!”  Ultimately, all the parenting, churching, modeling, preachin’ and praying sometimes just doesn’t hit home on how to really be selfless – until it is experienced in the flesh.

So, to the anonymous angel out there who paid for our meal, with our sincerest gratitude we thank you.  Your kindness and example of generosity did not go unnoticed.  Pay it forward lesson learned?  Check.


About juliemayb

I'm a mom who is about to celebrate the 13th anniversary of my 29th birthday. I used to spend my time running around after other people's children in my Kindergarten classroom. Now, I spend my time running after my own children. After growing up as a lazy-eyed, left-handed, accident-prone kid, I've learned to laugh at myself and and the ridiculous situations that continue to define my resilience. Welcome.

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