That particular night in July was very warm, very boring, and full of discovery. A friend of mine suggested an indie show downtown to fill the evening. After the show, my friend and I went on an adventure to find the nearest breakfast establishment. It only took a few minutes of driving to find a relatively clean looking IHOP in the middle of downtown Phoenix. The first thing I saw when I walked into that IHOP was a large table of men dressed in their blue uniforms, ready to enforce the law on my friends and I unsuspecting friends. We exchanged questioning glares with the authority of downtown Phoenix, trying to figure out if either of us were on drugs or had robbed a bank. This stare down made the unusually long wait to be seated in a barren IHOP at midnight seem even longer.
When we were seated at out table, we began to what teenagers do best, complain. While perusing the menu, we complained about friends and progressed to family members as our food arrived. As teenagers we also didn’t bother to censor our language or control our volume, although there were still a few people left in the restaurant. My friend and I went back and forth telling stories that progressed into even deeper issues. We talked about those people closest to us who had been holding us back in life; people who said the things that hurt us the most.
There was a man I did not notice when I walked in, he was dressed in blue scrubs, seated a few empty tables away. I only noticed him when he began to make his deliberate journey towards our table. My first thought was that he was coming over to tell us that we shouldn’t use that language, or tell us he could hear everything we were saying and we should take it elsewhere. I was very wrong in my assumptions. He came over, introduced himself, and told us he would be taking care of our bill tonight. This caught my attention but it also made me think I was going to encounter some religious ambush. I sat there looking interested, regardless, because he had just swiped my bill from the table. The difference between looking and actually being intrigued changed very quickly. He told us that he couldn’t help but over hear our conversation and he wanted to share with us a few things he had learned over the years.
The man spoke with us about how he learned at a young age what kind of people were worth letting into our lives. He told us that we were beautiful young woman who had a great futures ahead of us. Every word he spoke to us was profound in so many ways. He man was an extraordinary man. By the end of his speech my friend and I had tears in our eyes. I was in a complete daze as I rose from the table. Because I was an atheist, I believed nothing but the facts. However, by the time I had fastened my seat belt in that random IHOP parking lot, I had begun to re-think everything.
My mind was consumed with the fact that I had just experienced something once in a lifetime. I don’t want to give too much away, or ruin the surprise. I don’t want to give it away because I believe everyone will meet that man at IHOP. I believe that small selfless gestures from a total stranger can stimulate spiritual rekindling.