June 6, 2013

In and Out of the Quad-Cities

Contributed by Gail McPike and Toni Hall

Lunch with an Angel named Jill – Paying it forward

After a combined quarter century of life’s adventures in the good old Quad-Cities, something happened that touched our hearts to the very soul. Throughout our interactions with people, places and groups of the beautiful rolling river place we call our adopted homeland, no other single event has carried such a powerful emotional wallop. As we reminisce through the dozens of touching movies, thought provoking plays or compelling conversations, nothing stands out like one particular moment in time.

As we sit at our powerful keyboard high atop the 50+ Lifestyles tower, it’s been a couple of weeks since circumstances brought our Gail in touch with an angel. Each time she relates the story, tears of joy well up and a smile forms on her face. Allow us to share a moment in time.

A couple weeks ago, Gail was blindsided by blast of a random act of kindness. One could say she was clobbered by the chivalrous actions by a complete stranger. And, rather than provide our normal light hearted, humor-happy report, we decided to let a bit of this angelic touch rub off on our dear readers. Now, allow us to retell the story…

Gail had just picked up her mother at the Rehab Center, where she had undergone a couple of weeks of therapy from a mini stroke. The day was hectic. Lots of errands, piles of paperwork, taking care of loose ends and a 1 p.m haircut appointment were the order for the day.

As lunch time neared, Gail and her mom decided to sandwich (pun intended, we couldn’t help ourselves) a healthy lunch into their day. Panera’s would be a nice stop for a celebratory lunch commemorating Francis’ recovery and return to normal life.

The line was long, so after finding a table and getting her mom comfortably seated, Gail joined the queue. Did we happen to say, the line was long, very long? But hey, good restaurants are busy at lunch hour.

After finally working her way to the counter and meticulously providing the attendant with her mother’s order and agonizing over what she wanted, it was time to pay.

Have you ever had one of those panic moments? Just as the waitress utters the final syllable of, “Your total comes to…” you realize something is dreadfully wrong. In the flash of milliseconds, you give yourself a subconscious frisking. No purse, no credit cards, no billfold are found. That 20 dollar bill in your pocket turns out to be a week old napkin from McDonalds, and all you can find is a couple of crumbled up ones in the bottom of your pocket, definitely, not enough to pay the bill.

For Gail, time stood still. Each of the next nanoseconds seemed like hours. She quickly dodged through busy tables of dinners to check for her purse at her mother’s table. Not there. Blood pressure soring, she returned to the counter. In almost a whimpering voice, half crying – half talking, she asked the young clerk behind the counter if she could use a check or run home after lunch and pick up her purse to pay for the meal. No Dice.

In retrospect, one can only imagine how many people try the old, “I left my purse at home,” trick to score a free lunch. After the fact, it makes one think of Wimpy from the Popeye cartoon strip and his, “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Real funny now, but at the moment the whole ordeal was about to bring our Gail to a state of stress induced attack of panic. She was a wreck, her day was a wreck.

In the wink of an eye, her whole afternoon was instantly reset. She heard the voice of an angel sing, “I am going to buy your lunch today.” Life couldn’t have been better if the angel was fluttering 10 feet off the ground and surrounded by halos. But, this particular angel, named Jill, was sitting at a nearby table studying for her coming chiropractic boards.

After hearing and observing the whole conversation (and no doubt seeing the 50 shades of gray spreading over Gail’s face), this kind stranger decided to exercise a random act of kindness. She saved the day and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Nor for that matter, would she allow poor Gail to send her money or somehow pay her back. After a wonderful conversation, we learned Jill was moving to (of all places) Oklahoma very soon. She only asked that we someday help someone else out in a time of need. It’s called paying it forward.

This month, we would like to do two things. First, join us in wishing all that is good and warm for Gail’s personal angel, Jill. Secondly, think about helping a stranger. Random acts of kindness are a thing of beauty.

Later this month, we are taking the train from Iowa to The Black Sheep Gathering on the West Coast. Is that a fitting name or what?