I’m a creature of habit more and more. Though I try and avoid, I find myself set in my ways. This has been apparent to me on a recent visit home. A semi-annual-or so occasion, I realize that I do many things the same. Marking time and making the rounds.
My first morning, I head to the donut shop. I get always get my teeth cleaned early on. I get a haircut whenever I can. Drinks with one friend. Trivia contest with select others.
No visit home is complete without a visit to Nancy’s. A perennially, classic diner with just 4 booths and counter seating for 12. Fluorescently lit and adorned in hometown team memorabilia. The boombox plays perpetual 70’s rock over the whoosh of the exhaust fan and the sizzle of bacon on the grill.
The counters are U-shaped forcing one to come face to face with strangers. The food is good, but not that good, so one must make eye contact with the person across or next to you. And, though the patrons change, it is always consistently interesting. There is always a ever-changing cast of characters.
A homeless man is muttering in the corner wearing every stitch of clothing he owns. A cup of coffee steaming in front of him. A child and parent occupy a booth. The child wants a kiddie pancake with chocolate chips and whip cream.
A woman walks in with a carton of jars and spring flowers. She’s a florist nearby and had these left over, so she threw some arrangements together. Every table gets a mason jar with blooms. “I just want to see the place brighter. There is always room for flowers. The grill cook nods his assent and tips his spatula in deference.
She sits down and further espouses the virtues of flowers and how she learned all her skills. A plate of fried mush and a cup of tea appears before her.
Across the counter a regular is down on his luck. He misjudged his budget and has no money for two days until Friday’s pay. He mops up the last of his biscuits and gravy and talks openly of his embarrassment. Both the cook and the waitress reassure him and he reciprocates that he’ll be back to pay it forward. “Whenever you can. “ They say.
Such is that crowed at Nancy’s, that they’ve established a pay it forward program. Write a message on a Post-It and throw a fiver into the jar. That buys a meal for someone in need. Anyone in need can come in and ask for a meal and get it, no questions asked. The wall is full of inspirational sticky notes. Clearly this is a success.
No one seems to do it for the tax deduction or the immediate feedback. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of administration. If you’ve got it, you give it. If you need it, you ask. The supply of meals available outstrips the need.
I finish my eggs and bacon and throw in the extra five for the next person, whether they’re muttering or mis-budgeting. That is part of the routine. With luck, I’ll never be in need, but if my future holds a new routine, I know where to get a plate of biscuits and gravy and some needed sympathy.