Banquet With Gabriel

Short Story by Polly Rhea Harper July 2013

Banquet With Gabriel is a short story I wrote in July 2013. From that moment on I called it a ‘Divine Moment’. It is one of those little surprises that we cherish and never forget as a random act of kindness.

It was another last minute meal with no intentional plans other than eating on the run and catching up on TV news. The Varsity would satisfy both. As usual, I found pleasure in chatting with strangers almost everywhere I went. This day was no different than any other. As I answered the call to “What’ll Ya Have?” from the hostess at the register, I came closer to join my new friends (strangers still) in line while ordering my chilidog with pimento cheese.

The little guy in line with a lady caught my eye and we began to exchange smiles and funny remarks. As time allowed, this new ‘friendship’ gained his grandma’s attention. As their food began arriving, I noticed she was also discussing a side order with the manager. This deepened my interest in my new friends.

Here is why: The Varsity was always as cold as a refrigerator – even to me when I have an extra sweater. That reminded me of the episode the night before.

This is what happened when I was in the other restaurant. There was a happy family of five at a table next to my booth. The little seven year-old-boy in the family was active, but that was not the problem. The waiter was working hard to serve them with drinks when to his huge surprise, one of the tall glasses of ICE WATER found its way down the back of the boy’s neck and shoulders. He was drenched!!! He did not know what hit him; it happened so quickly. He didn’t scream … he didn’t cry or get angry. He just smiled through the shock of it all as he watched the reaction of the family and me. On one hand, it was funny but on the other, it was hard not to offer assistance. (A T-shirt could have helped)

Back to the Varsity: Due to this story being so fresh on my mind and in my heart, I was especially sensitive to my new friend as I began to put the pieces together about the reason for a T-shirt in the first place. The little guy was cold and she thought it would help.

Realizing that the price of the shirt was about $15, she decided not to make the purchase, especially since it would not fit a 4 year old. During the gathering of food and price checking, I had already made a friend and had shared the story from the night before about the ice water and the little boy.

As it became my time in line to place an order and say goodbye to my new friends, the little guy said to the lady, “I want her to sit with us or can she sit with us?” The lady said it was okay and extended the invitation formally. They assumed that I might join them, but did not know for sure yet.

Meantime, my heart rushed with excitement as I secretly ordered the T-shirt to surprise my friend and keep him warmer. I just love to participate in a random act of kindness, don’t you? It usually offers me the most joy.

Okay, now we were friends, it’s time to join them, present the gift and make the friendship official with name introductions. But of course, the delight of the T-shirt came first. I felt sure that God had something in mind.

Gabriel was his name and she was Catherine, but she was better known as ‘Cat-Cat’ to Gab. She was the grandmother and had just recently been awarded custody as guardian of Gab. Cat’s daughter (Gab’s mom) had difficulties managing her life, which left the grandparents to stay very engaged in Gab’s life from the start. He was one happy little fellow with a radiant glow of life, but still had some fires to be extinguished.

Catherine is a gifted artist. She began to tell me about her upcoming church service at First United Methodist where she was to do a painting interpretation of the sermon on canvas at both services the following Sunday. I think “gifted” is more than a good use of my words!

When Catherine mentioned her church, I immediately asked if she knew my friend Rusty. Naturally she replied with a smile on her face saying, “Yes, as a matter of fact his wife Ann and I are close friends. I am to go to her house this weekend and help with a garage sale.” Our visit was not only about keeping Gabriel warm, but was about warming our hearts and sharing our common faith. We had no need to tell the facts of our faith as our hearts were all the affirmation we needed. (My version – although in parting Catherine did say she felt like old friends already)

Our ‘banquet’ at the Varsity was enough to ‘make my day’, but we met again on the parking lot. We shared appreciations and exchanged business cards. Later, as I reviewed her website and samples of her wonderful artwork and photos, I felt like she would enjoy some of the collection from my Photo Gallery that came through emails. I forwarded a lot of them to her including some of the Hawaii ocean waves. I also noticed that we both enjoyed the beauty of sunset and sunrise photos. What a special little guy named Gabriel that God created who made this special blessing possible by saying, “Can she sit with us?” I will never forget him.

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