Dinner used to be my favorite time of the day. I would get home from work, turn on some music, my husband would cook an elaborate four course meal (even on a random Wednesday night!), we’d sip wine. We’d unwind from our work day, relax and enjoy talking with each other about our day.
Then something changed: we had kids.
Two of them.
“Having a baby changes everything” I probably heard this a million times when I was pregnant with my first. And while I learned that this statement is in fact very true, what I failed to fully understand is that even the littlest things are going to change…little things like dinner time.
With a daughter in the “trying threes” and a 1 year old son, dinner has actually become one of the most stressful times with my family. Trying to keep my toddler in her seat, picking my son’s cup off the floor what seems like a million times, wiping up milk that will inevitably spill…it’s a chaotic routine shared by most parents.
Tonight we decided to cross our fingers and take the kids out to dinner. The plan was to eat dinner and then head out to do a random act of kindness afterwards. But as it would turn out, we wouldn’t have to wait that long.
Sitting at a table a few down from ours, a family of four caught my eye. There was a young man sitting with three little boys; I’m guessing a 5 year old, a 3 year old and a newborn baby. He was out numbered. The two older boys were eating dinner and the father was holding the infant, feeding him a bottle. In fact, the man was actually the only one at the table not eating. His hands were full. Instantly, my heart went out to him. Here he was, managing three little men all by himself. I have no idea what his story is. He could have been giving his wife a well deserved night off. He could have been a single dad just trying to get by. But here’s what I did know: this man was my hero. And I knew that this man deserved a surprise.
As we walked out the door, we stopped at the front desk, discreetly pointed his table out to the cashier and asked to pay their bill. “Do you know them?” she asked. When we said no, her face lit up with an enormous smile as she said two little words: “That’s awesome.”
As we headed to the car, I ended up having a perfect view inside to a scene that made my day. The cashier quickly scurried over to the waitress…I could see these two women smiling, talking about the bill that we just paid. Then I saw the waitress immediately walk over to the man’s table…she couldn’t wait to tell him the news. The man looked stunned…and then came a huge, genuine smile. The baby still in his arms, he held him up in the air and kissed his forehead…smile still plastered on his face.
Raising children is amazing. It’s filled with giggles, unconditional love and deep joy. It is, however, also filled with stress. One of my core beliefs: parents need to stick together, support each other. Tonight I was so happy that I got the chance to help out a father who had his hands full.
Two other quick things before I leave you…
- An idea for giving: take advantage of corporate programs. This afternoon I did a little Christmas shopping. When I walked inside the first store, a sign caught my eye…a promotional poster for St. Jude. When I checked out, I asked the cashier about it. During the holidays the store is partnering with MasterCard to raise money for St. Jude. “Would you like to make a donation?” I did. What I loved was that with their current promotion MasterCard matched my donation. So even though it was only a few dollars, those few dollars were doubled. Kudos to MasterCard and Brooks Brothers for helping a very worthy cause.
2. A quick update on one of my previous acts…Last week my daughter and I brought some holiday cheer to the retail workers at my favorite store. Today, however, I was the one being surprised. In the mail was a thank you card…signed by every employee.
And I smiled as soon as I saw the front cover: the Grinch. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes about Christmas: “Maybe Christmas, ” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a bit more.” My 30 Day Christmas Challenge has proved that Dr. Seuss was a very wise soul. Today I felt the magic of Christmas…being able to help another parent…being able to make a donation that will help a sick child, even a little…and being reminded that kindness is appreciated.