An Unexpected Blessing

Holli and I celebrated my 31st birthday at a local pan-Asian restaurant, which I affectionately call “Ultra Mega Buffet.” It’s been dubbed “The Largest Buffet in South Dakota,” and that could be measured by the square footage, the food selection, or the combined weight of the clientage.

My first plate was sushi; Holli’s was Mongolian grill. I retrieved my lukewarm serving of suspect seafood and waited. I played Disco Zoo. I waited so more. After Holli joined me, I folded my hands. “Should we pray?” I asked.

“Oh,” she said, surprised, “you didn’t have to wait for me.” I assured her it was no big deal. After all, I had dancing animals to tend to. We bowed our head in prayer and said our grace, unaware of the unexpected blessing we’d soon receive.

The meal went as I expected. I ate well beyond my physical means. I had left all reasonable consumption behavior at the door and finished feeling guilty and bloated. I checked the zoo — an executive director’s job is never finished — to make sure no one was sleeping. “Sleeping animals make no money,” as the saying goes.

“Excuse me,” said a voice. “Can I ask you a dumb question?” I looked up from my phone to see a man and woman had stopped on their way out of the restaurant. “Before you started to eat,” the man continued, “did I see you two say a prayer?”

“Yeah,” I answered, nodding. I began to guard myself, not knowing where the conversation would go. What could this man want to know about our meal prayer? Would he respond with a brochure encouraging us to meet his savior? Would he invite us to his church? Something even more awkward?

Instead, he set a plastic card on the table. “Your meal’s on us,” he said. Before us was a gift card. It took several seconds to make sense of what had happened, and, when I looked back up to thank him, they were gone. (Not like *poof!* gone, but like it took so long to recover that their reasonable walking pace had carried them out of the restaurant already.)

Holli and I gaped at each other. We’d just been given a gift from a stranger for our simple tradition. Most often, our mealtime prayer is a secondary impulse. The kids are usually half-done with supper before I remind them we need to pray. Yet, for whatever reason, seeing us bless our food moved this couple to charitable action.

I felt heavy. To lighten the mood, I said, “It’d be funny if there were, like, ten cents on it.” Of course, there was plenty left to cover our bill. There was some left over, which prompted us to leave the card by way of a small tip.

Touched by this gesture, we were left with a question: does this mean we have to pay the goodwill forward? What would you do? Have you ever given or received a blessing like this? Leave a comment.

2 Replies to “An Unexpected Blessing”

  1. I presume you still have the money that you were going to use before this stranger blessed you. I love the “pay it forward” idea in some way or another… I’m curious, did the stranger give you a general gift card (like Visa) or was it specific to that restaurant?

    1. That’s true, we do, and I think we’re going to put that money toward our own forward payment.

      The card was a gift card to that restaurant, but a general gift card like a Visa would be a flexible way to pay forward.

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