...and nice old men.
I have a favorite place for joe, and Daughter No. 2 has a favorite place for lunch. She and a girl friend walk to a little sandwich and soup shop next door to her school nearly every day for lunch. The shop is adjacent to the parking lot and very convenient. It's also affordable for kids, and No. 2 has her favorites on the menu. When the woman in charge makes a batch of macaroni and cheese soup, she can bet No. 2 will order a bowl and beg for more. No. 2 also has her favorites not necessarily on the menu, and she knows she can ask them for something special. They know what she likes just like my coffee guy knows that I want a 16-oz. cup of regional blend with no room for cream.
This school year, No. 2 and her friend have caught the attention of an older gentleman who eats there for lunch nearly every day, too. I know what you're thinking—"candy, little girls?" But he isn't that way. On his birthday, he gave them cupcakes. On Valentine's Day, he gave them an entire box of chocolates. He's just a nice man who recognizes nice kids when he sees them. I have images of The Pigman* running through my head and an entire story line of inter-generational conversation.
Just the other day, the gentleman (his first name is John) showed up for lunch and approached the girls at their table. He explained that he was about to have hip replacement surgery and probably wouldn't be back to the sandwich shop before they graduated from school, so he wanted to give them their presents early. And then he handed them each a jewelry box he had made from burled walnut with felted compartments on the inside. They weren't expecting gifts from the man at all, much less early, and they were so surprised. It was a lovely gesture.
The girls were very appreciative and want to send the gentleman thank you notes but don't know his last name. Wouldn't it be a kick if it were Pignati? So, now begins the search for who he is and where he lives so they can mail him a thank you note and possibly send him flowers after his surgery. With all the crap that goes on in Small Town and in big cities and around the world, seeing someone perform an act of kindness with no hopes of anything in return makes the sun shine.
Get well soon, John. You're a gem.
*The Pigman is a book for young adults written by Paul Zindel. In it, two high-school kids get to know an older man in their town named Mr. Pignati. They refer to him as the Pigman and become caught up in the intrigues of his house and his friendship with a baboon at the zoo. Read it.
UPDATE: We have learned the gentleman's full name and his room number at the hospital. Yesterday we had flowers sent to him with a little thank you note from the girls that reads, "Thanks for being so awesome, John."