The saddest thing

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I was in a really angry mood this morning, so I decided to go to one of my happy places and visit the nearby Souplantation for lunch.

In case you’re out of the loop, Souplantation is a land of salad and soup aplenty, for a low price. It’s a buffet, it’s clean, it’s comfortably no frills and predictable. Is it my favorite restaurant? Certainly not. Is it the one I’ve visited most frequently in our four years in Southern California? No doubt.

Anyhow, when I go to Souplanation I almost always wind up chatting with one of the waitresses. I won’t name names, but she’s a 42-year-old mother and grandmother who came to the United States from Mexico 14 years ago. We speak in primarily Spanish, and she’s warm and loving and often gives my kids a free bag of galletas (cookies).

Today, we talked about this and that; that and this. Divorced from her husband, she shares a home with her son, her son’s girlfriend and her two young grandchildren. She wakes at 8 am, watches the little ones all day, then comes to Souplantation around 3. In between she tries and do exercise in her garage. “It’s not easy,” she said. “But I have family.”

Then, she turned unusually serious and, in Spanish/English, told me that it’s the two-year anniversary of her older sister being shot and killed in Mexico. Her eyes reddened. Tears started to stream. We’re not close enough for me to offer a hug, so I just asked some questions about her sister; told her how sorry I was (Truly, I was).

The moment past, she went back to work, I finished my meal. I had a book with me, and I ripped off a section of the flap and wrote a note that read (in Spanish):

You have a big heart, and I will be thinking of your sister today.

Jeff

PS: Thanks for the cookies.

I tucked a $20 bill with the letter and handed it to her.

Then I quickly turned to walk off.

Tears in my eyes.

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