So last night I ate my dinner
What do you mean, "What's the big deal." ?
Of all the things I dislike and try hard to avoid, this is probably one of the top three.
Now, don't get me wrong. I travel quite a bit and I eat alone all the time in airports. But that's different. In airports nearly 70% of all the other people are eating alone as well. Hence, all the two-seater tables and single seat high tops. These are all designed to indicate "Nearly everyone here is dining alone." So you sit facing the concourse, spread out your sandwich wrapper to cover the table top and start discreetly watching the people as they pass.
And people-watching happens to be one of my FAVORITE things to do! (I'll save comments on this for a later post.) So, problem solved.
However, for every other area of my life - I've gone to great lengths (sometimes ridiculous lengths) to avoid dining alone!
You know how it is. There is the "I'm reading this book so I'm fine eating alone!" technique. Which is frustrating to me because I can't seem to master the art of cutting my food while holding the book and my clumsy attempts give me away every time. There is the "I'm busy and important and didn't have to share this meal so I'm fine eating alone!" technique. But I'm undoubtedly the slowest eater in the world so THAT doesn't work either! Sigh.
In high school, it was Cindy Gregory (now Smith) who saved me from the horror. I was a serious English Lit Geek who loved to sing. This pretty much assured me a single seat by the wall! But my best friend happened to be a cheer-leader who drew others like a magnet. Crowded table guaranteed no matter when we went to lunch!
Things weren't so easy when I attended Southeastern University. Everyone's schedule changed every few weeks. Just as I would finally discover someone who's schedule matched mine - finals week would arrive, the semester would end and I'd be back on the search again.
I finally resorted to keeping crackers in my room; skipping lunch all together. (And with classes starting at 7:30 a.m. you know I didn't make the cafeteria in time for breakfast. That is a big confession before my three daughters but the last one just graduated herself so it doesn't really matter now. smile!) You must also remember that this was during the dark ages when we weren't allowed electrical items that drew more currency than a blow dryer. That means no refrigerators in the dorm and I don't think microwaves were even in use yet. (Yes, I AM that old!)
Okay, back to the main point - last night's dinner A.L.O.N.E.
My precious husband is coming to the close of a lengthy fast and because yesterday had been a little tough, I was going to be considerate and eat before coming home. But I needed a real meal, I did NOT want to go into a restaurant and KFC was too far away. So I popped into Crisper's for their wonderful half 'n half deal. (Which ended up being a whole 'n whole because the new guy didn't know how to ring it up.)
Now, I've spent more money than I intended, it took them forever and it's getting dark so I can't sit in the parking lot to eat. They even forgot to put the Thai Peanut dressing in the bag, which is why I went there in the first place! AGGGHHHH, back into the restaurant!
I tried the parking lot for a split second because by now I was HUNGRY. But two different "characters" walked slowly by and I just knew that they were casing my vulnerability level and I could hear the evening news - "Woman robbed in Crisper's parking lot! The thief got away with forty dollars AND her Thai Peanut dressing!"
So, I started driving; trying hard to hold my tomato soup with one hand and steer with the other. (Who in their right mind orders tomato soup as a take out?!)
I stopped at the next most well-lit area I could find on my way home - the RaceTrac Service Station! Pulling into a spot near the building, I made eye contact with the female worker who was emptying the trash. She realized I was eating my dinner there and smiled. It seemed a bit pitying but I'm sure we're friends now and that made it easier. My sister says I make friends in the strangest places - this confirms it.
I quickly downed half the salad, ate most of the soup, did a little people watching - discovered the service station technique need not be as discreet as the airport technique - and headed home! Ah, sweet relief!
But while I sat there, I was reminded of all the wonderful ladies in our church family who regularly eat alone and never complain. I thought of my precious dad who became a widower just fourteen months ago. I thought of recent divorcees whose dinner tables have changed unexpectedly!
I prayed for them and was reminded of the hope found in the promises that we are never REALLY alone. Christ sticks closer than a brother; He is with us always; He knows our every thought; He calls me friend! How amazing!
So, if you are privileged to dine with friends or family tonight (even if dining on mac 'n cheese) breathe a prayer of gratitude. I know I will!