By Mark David Blum, Esq.
It was among the darkest of our Christmases. It was not as long ago as I would like. It was when our outlook looked bleak. It was when we had nothing. Our lifetime collection of Christmas ornaments at the time, were safely packed in boxes stored three thousand miles away. The tree that stood atop a once discarded table was a throw away by a closed up tree shop. The ornaments that did hang were hand made by the wife and kid and a friend of tinfoil, glue, glitter, string, and posterboard. We still have them among our collection as humbling reminders of a part of our Christmases past.
At the time, work was nowhere to be found. I did just about every dirty job I could to feed my family and did so with pride. It is what you do; you survive and you do so as honorably as you can.
One day a few days before Christmas, I get a message from someone I never met who along with a whole cast of idiots and clowns, was among the posters on what used to be the local online hangout; Syracuse.com. I will let him out himself if he chooses. He lurks among us. So does his awesome restaurant bearing his name.
Anwyay this person invites me and my kidlet to breakfast at his then diner. I couldn’t imagine why because I did not know this person personally and barely from online. Perhaps, thought I, because I had been looking for work, maybe I was going to get some kind of job offer – to clean or whatever. I had never worked in a restaurant and have no intention of ever doing so. Times were hard and since he asked me to meet him at breakfast time and I had my kid in tow, I gathered what few pennies together I could find so as to be able to at least pay for mine and her meals.
So we get there and make small talk and I am still flummoxed what I am doing there. We are introduced, we sit, we make small talk, and we eat.
Out of nowhere, this kind soul hands me a gift. It was the perfect gift and saved our Christmas in so many ways. It gave us some breathing room and to be perfectly honest, my life has been nothing but better since. Yes, it has been a roller coaster, but I will never forget that moment in that diner at that Christmas time.
There was and remains no way to truly thank someone for a gesture so powerful and perfect. What I took from that and have done since, is to try to do the same thing; step into the breach, however small, and change a life. When people try to thank me I tell them this story and that when there comes a time they see they can make that one bit of difference, that they should pay it forward and likewise step up and reach out. The ripple effect lasts for decades and change the world.
Then, just like that, after a few more words of chit chat, he got up and walked away. I left my breakfast money as the tip since there was no check but we were fed. I got up and walked out and lived long enough to fight through to this day.