As two planets aligned recently, we here on planet Earth are still feeling completely out of alignment in our lives. The COVID vaccine holds promise, as early vaccinations have begun, but the full effects toward a new normal won’t be felt until spring 2021.
By now every one of us has been directly or indirectly touched by this pandemic nightmare. Our loved ones are dying with a death about every 45 seconds. Entire industries have been decimated, and in many areas some 70% of restaurants have closed, and some may never reopen, even among the iconic culinary castles in our communities.
The only way that some restaurants have survived is by offering take-out meals because there is no in-house seating. It typically works like this: we log onto the website, select from the menu, and then either call or text the restaurant. We are given a pickup time and off we go.
But now for the rest of the story because there always is.
An upscale restaurant on the outskirts of our downtown area was clearly on the verge of bankruptcy. The wait staff was decimated. The chefs were collecting unemployment, and the future was looking grim especially since we were in the midst of another impending lockdown. An entrepreneurial manager and a pet owner had the idea of donating 10% of the proceeds for one evening to a local pet shelter.
My wife and I (passionate pet advocates) scanned the menu and sent in our order at 5:00 p.m. for 5:45 p.m. pickup. Okay, we in the Midwest like to eat early. New Yorkers, please do not laugh! I arrived in the parking area at about 5:30 and was astonished to see the crowd in their cars. Almost everyone had a dog or a cat or some sort of creature in the car or truck.
I luckily found a parking place and quietly laughed because the dog in the car next to me actually smiled and he looked like the Dick and Jane dog Spot. The left side of his face was completely black and the right side was completely white.
But let us back up for a minute.
Because of COVID many of us have become non-persons fearful of contact, wary of strangers, and avoiding social gatherings. We try to live in a bubble and exclude individuals not of our family. The predictable rituals of church, school, work, shopping, sporting events, and the theater have been lost. We are adrift in a sea of uncertainty—but this parking lot gathering of pet owners was different.
Mindful of social distancing, two lines of patrons, each 6 feet apart lined up in the warmth of the restaurant. Among others I lined up outside in the bitterly cold Minnesota winter night. But there was no whining, no complaining by anyone. There was a palpable sense of camaraderie we had all missed.
Protected behind muffled masks and parkas we shared stories of our pets. And every couple minutes some gentleman who was in line in the glow of the restaurant offered his place in line to some of the others who were waiting outside in the bitter cold.
It was finally my time to get our order. The scene in the restaurant was controlled chaos. The kitchen staff were working at warp speed and runners brought cherished bags of dinner to the waiting patrons.
I was expecting to get our dinner at 5:45 and it finally came at about 7:00. During our patient waiting, we had all bonded in adversity just like what happens in the airport boarding gate when a flight has been canceled. Strangers embrace and there is a collective camaraderie driven by purpose. Oh, by the way, there was a hearty clapping as each of us received our take-out orders.
So, my friends, what do we make of all of this? What are the deliverables? This is hardly rocket science but here goes:
The animal/human bond is real. We patrons that evening were hardly in life and death crisis, but we each understood the importance of providing a voice to those who do not have a voice. Helping out a local restaurant and animal shelter were worthy choices.
We as humans are hard wired, our DNA cries out for community, for connectedness. And on a bitterly cold, dark Minnesota night, strangers connected because of the love of some four-legged creatures whose owners really believe they have the smartest dog or cat in the galaxy.
I remember the bond we humans made over our pets and the compelling reason for us to come out, bundled for the weather and a pandemic, to help others in need during the most unusual holiday season we’ve ever experienced.
Even when our world is spinning out of control, sometimes the stars align. That night there was peace on earth (and a darned delicious meal).