I’ve heard of it happening to other people.
But to me? Never.
Last night while the world celebrated New Year’s Eve, our family didn’t. With my brother and his wife leaving at 5 pm New Year’s Eve, we decided to celebrate the night before so we could be together as a family while “ringing in” our own version of a new year—and celebrate we did.
Although our neighbors probably thought we had misread the calendar, we put on about a 45 minute fireworks show that had Wyatt saying how “brave” he was to be outdoors enjoying the boom booms…and that had the twins making a bee line for the front door (the same action Wyatt took last year) about 5 minutes into the festivities.
Earlier, we'd consumed the best BBQ shrimp swimming in a marinade that tempted you to slop up just a bit more with that sweet olive-oil-crusted french bread. Then, there was the "usual" sparkling grape juice, smoked oysters, and enough appetizer foods to count as a second entree.
With that memory less than 24 hours old, my husband and I wanted to have some quiet time, a normal meal, and a shift back into the routines that make the world go round. But, with our usual babysitters out of pocket, we decided a not-so-routine date night was better than none at all.
We chose La Carreta, a fabulous, low-budget establishment typically loud enough to drown out the noise of any screaming child. To our surprise, this time there were (maybe) half a dozen families in the restaurant.
Once the children were seated, though, I was oblivious to anyone else around us until the end of our meal. If you’ve ever tried to help two “I no need help” two-year-olds while encouraging an “I don’t like that” four-year-old to eat, then you know how a parent’s attention is totally consumed.
No, Amelia—you can’t just lick the queso off the chip and hand it back to mommy for re-dipping.
No, Wyatt, you can’t have more chips. Eat your quesadilla. Pull the shrimp out if you’re done eating the cheese and bread part.
No, Emerson, you don’t have to use your fork. But please don’t shove the entire piece of broccoli in your mouth at one time.
No, Amelia—it’s not ketchup! It’s salsa, and it’s hot!...Well I TOLD you it was hot! Have some water.
Amazingly, we finished the meal with all my sanity intact. Nobody had screamed, thrown a tantrum, overturned a plate. I hadn't yelled at anybody, threatened to drag someone to the bathroom for a talking to, or made stern faces sure to earn me a few more wrinkles.
Most of the food was in three full tummies rather than the floor. And I actually even had time to eat my tacos and drink my beverage (that’s a miracle in itself) before everyone decided (at once, of course), “I need pee pee potty.”
We paraded with great flourish to the bathroom. When I returned, Doug stood up, grinned, and said, “Somebody paid for our meal.”
I grinned in return. “Really!? Who?”
An unknown patron--what a blessing.
It’s not so much the money (my tacos cost $2.50). Instead, it was the willingness of a stranger to pay our debt.
And I wanted to ask "why me?" What did we do to deserve this? Why pick us over the other couples in the restaurant? Did this person go there tonight planning to be such a benefactor? Or did it just strike his fancy when he saw us?
Did we look that pitiful trying to feed three hungry little birds? Did I look too haggard because I forgot to put on makeup today?
What did he see in us?
Did he watch us bow our heads as Wyatt said the prayer? Did he see the love we have for each other as a family?
Maybe it was something, maybe nothing.
And now as I write this, I wonder—was he still there, watching our excited response when we learned our debt had been paid?
I'll never know the truth, but I like to think there was a little bit of Jesus shown to us tonight. And my prayer is that this person knows what it's like to have his debt completely wiped clean by our Savior.