We hovered above our plates at the restaurant. Scott and I both shoveling in our food. Our window of well behaved children was a small one, and we both knew it. As I was forking in my veggie lasagna and Scott his shrimp pasta - because it was Friday, and Lent - we were both trying to keep the kids fed, entertained, and tantrum-free.
Throughout our whirlwind of an attempt at a family dinner I noticed two older gentleman at a table very near ours. They both occasionally would glance our way and give small nods of the head and knowing smiles. As if to say, "We've been there before, we understand." Thankfully, our kids hadn't (yet) thrown any food or shed any tears. But, somehow, these two older men seemed to know our situation. We were a family of four, just trying to have a civilized meal together, and trying to teach our kids how to behave in public (and mostly succeeding).
As I was nearing the end of my dish - still piping hot - I was bouncing Julia on my knee. She was getting fussy (even though I'd thrown the white flag and nursed her right there at our table - sorry not sorry). Her little whimpers were turning louder and more frantic. That peaceful window was about to slam shut.
I took one last gulp of my sangria, knowing there wasn't any chance I'd actually get to finish it, and started packing Julia into the stroller. As I began to stand the two gentlemen were finishing up their meal. One of the men leaned close to us, flashed the sweetest smile and said, "You have a beautiful family." I couldn't help but beam. We'd avoided a scene in public and collected a compliment.
Outside, Julia and I walked laps around a fountain, waiting for Scott and Marcus to finish their meals. It wasn't too much after I'd left the table that both my guys exited the restaurant. I was shocked at how quickly they had finished, and how fast they had paid the tab.
Scott came closer, a look of disbelief on his face. He said, "You will never believe what just happened to us." My mind started to race, surely this wasn't going to be good. But he continued, "Those two men picked up our bill. The whole thing." And I couldn't believe it. I was shocked. Nothing like that had ever happened to us.
As we walked to the car we were both stunned. Scott turned to me and said, "We've been looking for something to do together during Lent this year. I think this is it. This was our sign. We're supposed to pay it forward. The next time we can, we should pay for a family's dinner. This is such a great start to Lent."
I couldn't have agreed more.
Now, I'm asking anyone who is reading this, have you challenged yourself this Lenten season?
What if... the next time you are in the Starbucks line you pick up the coffee of the frazzled mother behind you who is desperate for that cup of caffeine goodness to get her through the morning.
What if... the next time you're out to eat, you see a family who is desperate for a family meal together - even if it means one parent has to walk laps around the restaurant to keep a baby from crying - you pick up their meal?
What if one little gesture makes someone's day?
What if we all paid it forward this season?