[caption id="attachment_22039" align="alignleft" width="403"] Waitress[/caption]
Carol Forsloff----Her feet hurt. So many customers on the holiday, but she had to work that day at the restaurant, as it was one of the places open at Christmas. And she was too far from home and family with little money to travel, so it was just as well to be there serving people with the smile she maintained in spite of the waitress work that required her to stand and walk so many hours.
Across the room an elderly man sat alone, staring out the window watching the snow fall on the ground, covering it so well that the brilliance of the day was lit with the sun that shone and made the trees all around seem almost to glitter like Christmas lights. The man was smiling as she came to take his order.
“Do you know what you want to eat? “ she asked, watching the old man looking at the menu, then up at her with his eyes that now sparkled with a few tears. “Some toast,” he said, “I'm not very hungry right now, but thank you for this window where I can watch the day. And a little water too, if you don't mind.”
“Is that all?” she asked again. The man looked up and shook his head, then turned to the window, as she went to fill his order.
She was new at the restaurant, having arrived in the city just months ago, finding her way to a job that could complement the hours she needed to be at school. And it was convenient to the small apartment, just a few blocks walk on a not-too-busy street. So the manager approached her patiently, as she passed by, after taking the old man's order and said, “That old man comes here every Christmas, and that's all he orders. You won't get much of a tip. He's some homeless guy I see around the area. He's harmless, I guess, but I wouldn't spend much time with him. After all, it's a busy day. Besides I don't think he has any money to even pay for the meal.”
She looked again at the old man. He could be her grandfather, she missed so much; and she recognized in those bright, blue eyes a certain charm indeed. His clothes were worn from age and the streets where he likely lived much of the time. What was Christmas, she thought, but a time to think about someone else. Besides it gave her something to think about away from friends and family and going home after work alone.
She watched until the manager had moved away into another area of the restaurant, took another order, then stepped back into the kitchen and told the cook, “Add some eggs and a little sausage to the order and a hot cup of coffee too.” She reached into her pocket and knew she had made enough in tips that it would be easy to pay the bill.
His face was filled with joy as she took the plate to that window seat and said, “No charge. A gift from the restaurant to you,” then returned to her other customers waiting at tables in various places nearby and took the money, as if he had given it to her then, and placed it in the register along with the order's receipt.
The old man was gone soon after, an empty plate left, and the snowflakes falling outside as she watched him walk away, along the path leading to the streets beyond. And in his place another man was sitting, this time a simply dressed one with a gentle look of peace and kindness. So she went again to wipe the table and take another order. The man spoke softly, saying, “I cannot stay. I just came in to find my friend's gloves. I'm taking him home today. “ She saw the gloves in the man's hand she recognized from the earlier customer who had disappeared from view.
“Do you know where he went?” she inquired. The man looked then with a countenance filled with light and love, eyes of wisdom she had never seen before. “I know where he lives. I thought I would find him here.”
She turned and left, watching the gentle, kindly face smile as he moved to the door and left with the gloves to find his friend.
The day moved quickly then, as her feet began to throb with the many served; and she could scarcely wait to leave, go home and sleep awhile. She found her coat and watched as the restaurant lights turned off, as customers had gone, then put it around her shoulders. She wished she could see her family now, but her dad had lost his job near Christmas; and there was none to send her to make the trip that holiday to be with those she loved.
Her hands reached into the pockets, to keep warm as she ended the workday. The manager approached and said, “You were talking to yourself over there. Anything bothering you?”
“No, “ she responded. “I was talking to the fellow who was here just a short time ago. He came to find gloves the elderly man before him had left behind and said he would find his friend and take him home.”
“But there was no one there,” the manager told her. “You must have been tired by then. It's good the day is over. I'm tired too. Go home and get some rest."
She walked outside, the snow still falling all around her, gently caressing her face. Strange, she thought. I knew someone was there. I saw him. Something in the pocket crinkled in her hand, and she took it out and read the words under the street lights, transfixed with the message and inside the folded paper she had found.
“Here is your tip. You earned it. But you earned even more, for you know what Christmas is for everyone; and this blessing is for you. I have taken the homeless man with me where he will always have plenty and his time will be filled with the joy and love and the memory of the gift you gave today.”
A generous tip, $1000, she found inside the note, as she read the final lines: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself" and then was added this, "As you have loved Me so will you have life in abundance."