In this world of gloom and doom, instant gratification, and lack of common sense, it's a pleasant experience when sincere compassion and attention to detail fall into your lap when you least expect it. Many of us lead lives that tend to be cumbersome with work responsibilities coupled with extracurricular activities and family, civic or religious obligations. Living in the moment while finding the "good" out there is a tall task at times. I was fortunate enough to be reminded that we do live in a land of decency, courtesy and pleasant surprises.
On Tuesday, May 15, my oldest son Jonathan turned 9 years old. He is in the third grade, a grade I happen to teach within the same school district. He had a festive time at our school's track and field day. He certainly is no Carl Lewis, but loves school, his teachers, and just wants to be included as one of the group. The highlight of his school day was passing out birthday cupcakes to classmates and teachers. My wife picked him up after school, and following my day of teaching, I was off to coach my varsity baseball players at the baseball field. Once practice was over at 5:45, I scampered home as quickly as I could.
We hadn't made definitive plans for supper, so I was assuming we'd just fire up the grill and call it a day. I get home and my wife says, "Jonathan would really like to have supper at Olive Garden for his birthday." I was like, "Uh...now?" Nice attitude on my part, right? Going into Fargo was the last thing I wanted to do. However, I caved in as our family of five loaded up the mini-van. We made the 40-minute trek to town to eat out at the Olive Garden in Fargo. Following the events that took place over the next hour, I was never so happy to have been so wrong.
We were settled into our booth when we met our server, a young woman named Melanie. In the Olive Garden world, the definition of Melanie must be "angel," because that's exactly what she was. We were treated with such kindness and respect. Upon finding out that it was our son's birthday, she pulled out all of the stops to make it special. She frequently checked up on all of us. Seeing that our middle son was (lack of a better term) having difficulties waiting for his food, she treated our three boys to some mint chocolate to stave off further deprivation of food.
After our delicious meal, she appeared around the corner and sang "Happy Birthday" in both Italian and English while serving Jonathan chocolate cake. On the plate itself, she wrote "Happy 9th Birthday" in perfect cursive using raspberry topping. Before Jonathan ate the cake, we wanted a picture of him with the candle burning, but he accidentally blew it out. What did Melanie do? She left and then returned with a new candle, and lit the candle so we could get the perfect picture. Are you kidding me? What an incredible server to perform these duties with such grace and humility to boot.
With me being a curmudgeon initially at the idea of going to Olive Garden, I felt guilty. After seeing how elated my son was, I was again affirmed that you can't pass opportunities by. I'm overwhelmed at this wonderful memory that was made with our family on my son's birthday. I won't recall every single detail of Jonathan's 9th birthday, but Melanie and the Olive Garden will never fade away!
We appreciated your care and creativity in providing a most fantastic moment for our family. Morale of the story? Tell people that go out of their way to show they care "thank you" and that you value them, whether they're close friends or complete strangers. At the very least, be thankful for their compassion and your good fortune. Thank you, Melanie!
Lofgren lives in Hawley, Minn.