By Margaret Dolphin
In October 2000 I wrote a poem for my best girlfriend because we’ve been through a lot together. We met when my daughter and her son were in the same Head Start program. For fun, I submitted my poem to an online poetry contest. I never heard back from them, but I didn’t expect to.
Then in February 2001 I received a letter requesting to publish my poem. In April they wrote asking me to read my poem at their convention!
I was scheduled to read September 16th, 2001. I was supposed to fly, but in light of the events of September 11th, I couldn’t. My only choice was to drive.
I’m one who doesn’t drive long distances, and had nobody to go with me. My best girlfriend tried everything to get off work to go, but didn’t succeed. Driving by myself and at night made my husband, my family and friends worry something fierce. I left southern California at midnight for an eight-hour trip to Sparks, Nevada.
Driving in the dark was nerve wracking. I slowed at every turn. It was eerie driving with no cars on the road. After three hours I had to pull off and nap. That 45 minutes of sleep, and coffee, kept me going. As the sun was coming up, I was driving through more mountains.
I finally got to a tiny town — really only a few cafes and motels — in Northern California. Thoroughly exhausted and hungry, I walked into a little cafe. The waitress was a cute young thing, energetic and bubbly. She had dark brown hair, worn in a pony tail. She took one look at me and asked if I wanted coffee. I told her that coffee would keep me too awake as after two more hours on the road I could nap. I just wanted a piece of toast.
She served up my toast and then we had a nice conversation. I told her why I was driving through. She thought it was a wonderful idea. I told her those attending the poet’s convention were going to release balloons with poems of peace (written in response to the violence of the September 11th attacks) on them. She said she hoped she would be one of the lucky ones to receive a poem of peace. I showed her my peace poems, and I could see she was very moved.
When I was ready to leave I asked her how much the toast cost. She just shook her head no. I once again asked her how much, and she waved her hand away. I thanked her and walked out.
I have never known a restaurant to decline money for food served. I have never been so grateful for such a simple thing. When I got back to my car I broke down in tears. What a beautiful thing for her to do — to help a stranger when she didn’t have to.