It was a dense morning and the air felt full. As I strapped on my apron and clicked my keys, the car alarm began blaring. I knew the day would be heavy as well. I drove to get a coffee and as I approached the drive-through window I saw a body through the passenger door, waving and flailing in ways that did not fail to grab my attention. I rolled down the window and a man approached, scuffing his feet along the pavement with his finger pointed, indicating that he had a story to tell me. His eye glasses sat at the edge of his nose, tucked between white hair and his ears. I assume I looked puzzled based on his initial statement of, “Please don’t think I’m crazy, but I know your face and I have to tell you something that I’ve been waiting to share,” and what he proceeded with was something quite hopeful.

The man’s name was Red. He looked familiar, but that might have been solely due to the fact that he acted like I was supposed to know him. He looked like he was in his later 60s, and I knew he was a war veteran because of his bumper sticker that hung out in the back drop of his flailing. This drive-through fiasco had not been our first meeting, but our third. 5 short years ago I had two instances with this man; two instances that I had not given a second thought to.

He was walking his dog, a kind beagle named Winnie, when we encountered each other for the first time. I was driving home from work and had just pulled into my apartment complex. Winnie had run into the parking lot and he was trying to catch her. I stopped my car and helped Red capture the pup and bring her to safety, and that was that. We shared a friendly laugh, a cordial handshake, and we went our ways.

Encounter number two happened on a Wednesday around noon. I had served Red a bowl of potato chowder that looked and smelled like it was especially made for the elderly. We chatted about our days and the small talk was nice, so I let him have his small meal for free that day, and that was that.

Today Red told me that 5 short years ago his wife had died. He told me that Winnie was her pride and joy and potato chowder was her favorite lunch. He said she was kind for now reason, “like me.” Catching his breath from his chaotic waving, he told me that he had been heartsick over the fact that he never got to thank me. Red wanted to thank me for keeping his wife around him. Even though it was only in the form of their curious dog and some lousy, thick, soup, Red was thankful for those acts of kindness. 5 short years later, he remembered my face and thanked me.

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