A friend called to ask a favor. He went out to dinner with his wife at Chili’s celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. At one point, he told his wife happy anniversary and they touched his glass of sweet tea to her glass of strawberry lemonade as they casually talked over dinner.
They finished and asked the waitress for their ticket.
A few minutes later the waitress returned and said their bill had been paid in full. They looked around but didn’t see anyone they knew. Perplexed, they asked who paid for their $32 meal. The waitress smiled and pointed at two young ladies sitting at a table next to them.
They approached the two young ladies, thanked them for buying their dinner and asked the obvious question, why? The girls embarrassingly smiled and said they didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but overheard them say at one point that it was their wedding anniversary. My friend’s wife, who is as sweet as sugar cane in a syrup factory, immediately hugged their necks.
They began a short conversation and asked the girls if they were in college. They sheepishly laughed and said they were in high school, one a senior, the other a junior. Even more amazed now, the couple asked the girls a few more questions and learned they went to a small local high school nearby. They profusely thanked the two high school girls for buying their dinner, and then sat in the restaurant parking lot for a long time dumbfounded by what had just happened.
That’s why he called me. He knew my kids went to the same high school and wanted help to figure out who they were so they could adequately thank the two girls. My friend and his wife dropped by my house and looked through the high school year books searching for their benevolent benefactors. They definitively identified one of the girls, but not the other.
About the time they were leaving, one of my daughters came home from work. I introduced them and briefly told her the story and the name of the girl they had ID’ed. She immediately flipped open the yearbook, pointed to a picture and asked if it was the other girl because she knew they were good friends and hung out a lot together. The couple was ecstatic to identify and name both girls.
My daughter went on to share what she knew of their stories. Turns out, neither girl is rich with a lot of money to throw around. In fact, neither has much of anything. As of date, both have had hard lives and very little support from their single moms. One girl works two minimum wage jobs after school to support herself. The other works constantly at a fast food restaurant for minimum wage to make ends meet. Neither has an extra $32 laying around to pay for a meal for two complete strangers.
As my daughter talked, my friend’s wife began wiping tears from her eyes while he stood listening uncharacteristically quiet and open mouthed. They looked at each other in disbelief at the depth of the generosity and kindness these girls had showed them on their 40th wedding anniversary, still having no idea why the girls would do this.
I gently suggested that the girls had seen something in the way they treated and spoke to each other that touched them deeply. Maybe in a back door kind of way, it made them want to be around the couple. Shrugging, my friend said, “But other than tapping our glasses together and saying Happy Anniversary, we don’t even remember what we talked about”.
I don’t know, maybe that’s the point. Maybe they just haven’t seen something so great done so naturally before. Maybe it gave them hope for their own future, for what they want and what they hope to be. Maybe it was like a movie scene version of what they wished they had grown up with. Maybe it was none of that. Maybe it was just two poor high school kids who wanted to be nice.
The girl’s generosity was returned full circle. The couple bought both girls a gift, a Chili’s gift card and wrote a letter of thanks and encouragement to both of them. The packages were delivered, anonymously, at their school, and then the two girls had their turn at being astounded and speechless as the recipients of unexpected grace and kindness.
Some say kids today are lazy, self absorbed and just don’t get it. Sometimes, that’s true. But not always, not all kids, not by any stretch of the imagination.
In every generation the older generation wonders what will become of the world when the young take their turn in leadership. In every generation there are weaknesses, poverty, evil and hatred, yet in every generation there will also be goodness, unmerited generosity, peace and love.
Many public school teachers say they can spot the ones who are going to prison even when they are children, but on the other hand, you just never know, not completely, because there is hope, always hope.
To the two girls who unexpectedly blessed a couple celebrating a 40th wedding anniversary, a couple they had never even seen before, thank you! You are totally, totally the hope my generation has for tomorrow!