We loaded into the van and began to discuss our lunch options...
Me: "Nope. How about O'Charley's?"
Me: "NO FAST FOOD."
Lamb: "Pizza Hut?"
And so on and so forth.
We finally settled on Bob Evans, because I like their salads and their kids' meals are reasonably-priced. It was Lamb's idea, and I told her it would probably be packed with the after-church crowd, so I called first. To my amazement, they had no wait. So we headed straight over.
Lunch wasn't anything special, but it was fun. Lamb talked me into buying ice cream IF she didn't get pancakes for her meal. Roo thoroughly enjoyed watching me try to keep things out of his reach. I inhaled salad between trying to get Roo to eat something and trying to keep things out of his reach and talking to Lamb and all of the other things that moms do. Meals with kids are rarely peaceful, but it was still a good time in its own, chaotic way.
And then we were done. I was thankful to have made it through a whole restaurant session with a smile on my face. We gathered our things, and I reached for the bill--and literally as I stuck my hand out to pick it up off the table, our waitress came by and grabbed it. She crumpled it up and said, "You've already been taken care of. Have a nice day."
It took a moment for that to sink in. We've already been taken care of? What does that mean? Who took care of us? How? Why? I thanked the waitress profusely, then immediately felt silly because I knew she was just the messenger. I scanned the restaurant for a familiar face, but didn't see one. Did somebody really just pay for our lunch? Just... because? I've heard of this happening before, but hadn't even imagined I might find myself on the receiving end.
I have to admit, I was too stunned to do much except... well, leave. We walked across the restaurant, past the register, and I kept waiting for someone to stop me and say, "Excuse me, ma'am? You need to pay for your lunch." But they didn't. You've already been taken care of.
As soon as we got outside, it really hit me--the kindness of it, the generosity, the love. It seemed to be hitting Lamb, too. "That was just... so nice for someone to do that, Mommy." I sat down on the bench right outside the door, sat both kids on my lap, and we prayed. We thanked God for the kindness of strangers, thanked Him for an unexpected blessing, prayed for blessings on our benefactors, prayed for the opportunity to show that same kindness to someone else. And I got tears in my eyes.
I feel a little guilty, I have to admit. What if the stranger was hoping I would ask who had paid, and come to talk to them? I was so shocked that it hadn't occured to me to try to thank them personally. What if they thought I was a single mom? What if they thought my hairless 3-year-old was showing the signs of cancer treatment (something I think a lot of strangers assume)? What if I didn't deserve the kindness they showed?
But... they did show kindness, and I was thoroughly blessed by it. So simple--one grilled chicken salad, one grilled cheese sandwich with fruit, one Reece's sundae, and one scoop of vanilla ice cream (for Roo, of course). And it made my day. Shoot, it has made my whole week. I had no idea that paying one small bill for someone else could make such a huge impact on their heart.
So if you're out there and you somehow read this, my lunchtime angel, thank you. I may never know what made you love on my family that day, but I am touched beyond words that you did.
And you'd better believe I'm going to be paying it forward.