2 DINNER DATES
I had a dinner date that evening, at a new Italian restaurant at an upscale shopping center. It was with a man I had met online, & it was our first date. He rose from his seat, this handsome, dark-haired man, & smiled broadly at me as the gentle summer breeze flitted through his hair & I walked across the patio to the table which he had already claimed for the two of us. I liked him immediately, & I thought that he was probably one of the most genuine men I had met from that dating site. His eyes were merry, & his smile sincere.
But as soon as he had pulled out my chair, this true gentleman had a cloud come over his youthful face, & a sort of embarrassment overtook his eyes as he explained to me that he would have to cut our evening short due to a family emergency. I love my kids more than anything so I certainly understood, & told him that it was all right if he needed to go ahead & leave. However, gentleman that he is, he was too chivalrous for that & he insisted that we share a glass of wine instead, offering multiple apologies & promising to make up our planned dinner, which he did do a few evenings later.
We enjoyed good, easy conversation, some laughter, & some commiseration at the perils of child raising before he paid the check & departed. I was tempted to sit there & order dinner, for I had not eaten lunch, & it was a lovely evening out. I declined his offer to buy me dinner, even though he had to leave, & rose to leave, as it was “date night” at that venue, & I did not want to keep some couple from having that table.
I went to the restroom, & the aroma of the food there gave birth to hunger pangs, so on impulse I decided to sit at the bar & order the Italian Wedding Soup & salad, favorite menu items of mine at that eating establishment. I never meet a stranger, but I was content to eat alone & reflect on my meeting. As I looked to my right I saw a couple engrossed in each other in deep conversation. Seated to my left was a gentleman who was slightly hunched over the bar, seemingly lost in his drink.
Total strangers often tell me their stories unbidden, & as I am a storyteller by nature, I typically take delight in that, but I was feeling a tad bit introspective that particular evening, so I did not speak to that man on my left immediately. But a second glance made something tug on my heartstrings, so I spoke to him. I have no earthly idea what I said, or how I introduced myself, but he straightened his posture immediately, smiled at me, & I made my 2nd new friend that evening, as we chatted throughout my dinner.
I have this way of drawing people out, & discovering their hearts. I am not sure how I do this, as it is not calculated. It is as if God sometimes allows me to see a tiny piece of their souls.
My 2nd dinner date was from a different country, & he began describing to me his journey to explore the entire United States. Never an envious person, I felt a twinge of jealousy that he had such freedom to go whenever & wherever the wind blew him, as I too, have wanderlust in my soul. I want to see & explore. Mostly, I want to hear people’s stories, as I believe that in every story I hear, I find a little bit of my own interwoven there. But that feeling of jealousy immediately dissipated when he showed me some of his amazing photographs on his cell phone. Like me, he likes to capture his excursions through the lens of a camera, leaving a lasting impression for others to enjoy.
This guy told me that as part of his journey across the country, along with seeing the sites, he desires to meet & experience the people of each given area. Like me, he enjoys hearing people’s stories. Yet he told me that he had gone to four different restaurant bars that evening, & I was the only person that had spoken to him, outside of wait & bar staff. I found that to be sadly shocking, given that we live in a state known for Southern Hospitality, yet very believable all at the same time. It was “Date Night” in our town, after all, & I knew that many people would be coupled up in that area. Resignedly, I admitted silently to myself that it was also most likely a sign of the changing times, where people do not have the time, desire nor inclination to reach out to total strangers. For me, though, I think that Southern Hospitality is part of the fabric of my being, & I doubt I will ever stop smiling at strangers, or saying hello to people I meet on the trails on the mountain called Monte Sano.
Anyway, this man told me that he is a poet, & that touched me, because I have the Soul of a Poet. Unlike him, though, I do not labor over masterpieces that get published in a beautiful & poignant book with stunning photographs interwoven throughout to underscore the thoughts & share the inspiration. My poems cannot rival his. I have not studied the classic poets in depth, & while I know the meaning of iambic pentameter, I am too busy living my life, gathering my stories, if you will, to craft my own words into rhyming couplets. Perhaps when I am older, I will have that patience, but for now, I must work, earn money, & minister to the people God sends me each & every week.
On a whim I asked him if he is on social media, & he sent me a friend request. I do not typically befriend total strangers. Yet in that 20 minutes in which I visited with him while partaking of my dinner, I knew that he was a kindred spirit, not a stranger.
I was sad that the 1st dinner date that night did not turn out to be the love of my life. Let’s face it, we may delude ourselves into thinking we are only seeking friendship, but I believe that deep down in the recesses of our souls, we each long for that one special person to share our journey. But it was okay, because he is now my friend.
I keep up with each of these men now via social media. Each of them has moved on to different cities now, but I love seeing the photos that they post. I feel so fortunate to have the gift of their friendships.
Yes, I had a a disappointment at my dinner date, but as the saying goes, sometimes a disappointment is a Divine Appointment. I may not have left that restaurant with a potential boy friend, but what I gained was priceless. I had 2 dinner dates in one evening, & I made 2 new friends. What a lucky girl am I?!?
Southern Hospitality or not, keep in mind that you never know when you may be “entertaining angels unaware.” This Christmas season, someone, somewhere, needs you to reach out, to say hello, to be a listening ear . Guess what? The blessing which you receive in return may very well be far greater than anything which you can imagine. Like me, you might just make a new friend or two.
– Lou Lehman Sams