Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thanksgiving Month, Day 8: The Kindness of Strangers

The entry way to Nilgiris Tea House
It couldn't have been more random: we were assigned to the same table at the wedding reception of our friend Judy. We started talking and by the end we had formed a real, if fleeting, connection.

Or so I thought. 

Sue is one of those people who makes slightly awkward occasions turn into a "welcome home!" She is warm but not intrusive; she has suffered but is not bitter; she is the kind of person you wish you'd met in your childhood so that you could have had her as a friend for years. And then she makes you feel like you have been.

After the wedding we exchanged a couple of emails. Then one Sunday I got a really poorly connected phone call at about 1 p.m. Sue and Don, her husband, were outside the door! Don had run a marathon in Drumheller and they decided to detour past Three Hills on their way home. 

When they walked through the door it was as if they belonged here. They sized up the situation - Dad peeling potatoes for me, me trying to straighten the dining room and get last-minute desserts done - and they immediately rolled up their sleeves.

They worked until about 8:00 that night! I was one person short, and they rose to the occasion, Sue taking orders and serving guests like an old pro, and Don filling in wherever he could in the kitchen, particularly when it came to doing dishes or scooping up ice cream which was unaccountably rock hard and for which the girls didn't have enough strength.

What a wonderful gift they were to me that day, selflessly giving of their precious personal time to help an almost-stranger in her hours of need. Sue completely "got" the spirit of the TH and happily chatted with patrons, bearing up with great grace under the well-meaning but clueless questioning she received from some of our oldies. People loved her easy friendliness and ready smile and I was once again thankful for the not-so-chance encounter that brought us into contact in the first place.

The world needs more Sues and Dons. And I need more Sue and Don in my world - please come again, this time to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere and the food and to bless the little TH with the profound gift of your presence.


  1. It truly was a pleasure for both of us to lend a little hand to you that day - we enjoyed it so much and it opened our eyes to the behind the scenes work that happens in a restaurant.

    You have a beautiful place, with wonderful food, regulars, friendship and everything made and presented with so much love. We think of you often and wondering what you are serving and all the work that you are doing in preparation for your magical meals. How lucky people are that come to your tea house.

    Please give a warm hello and hug to your father for us. We were so fortunate to have met him that Sunday.

  2. "Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well." --Voltaire, 1694-1778, Philosopher and Writer


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