Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

Hebrews 13:2

This past weekend I participated in our church’s women’s retreat.  It was held at Black Mountain, NC, a little mountain town.  We were on our own Saturday afternoon so some of us went into town to find a cute little restaurant for lunch.  Friends Charissa and Dianne joined Carolyn and me.  They suggested we go to Veranda Cafe.  On the way, they kept finding things they wanted to see in the shops we were passing.  I was too hungry to shop so I went on to the restaurant in case there was a wait.  Indeed, there was.  I put our name in and waited for my friends to join me.  While waiting, an older lady came in.  She put her name in and waited alongside me.  We spoke briefly.  She seemed very nice.  I wondered if she had come ahead of her party like I had done, or if she was alone.  By the time my friends arrived I could tell she was on her own.  Just as I was about to ask my friends if they would mind if I asked her to join us, the waiter came to take us to our table.  Since he would be taking us to a table for four, I didn’t say anything about the ‘lone stranger’ I’d noticed.  We entered the dining room and I quickly noticed  the tables were very small.  Adding another place might make space tight.  I was about to dismiss the idea of asking the lady to sit with us.  HOWEVER, at the very moment these thoughts were going through my head, the waiter placed a fifth chair at the head of our table!  Can you believe it?! Well, that was my sign that we should ask her to join us.  When I suggested it to my friends they agreed.

I returned to the waiting area and kindly asked the lady if she was alone.  She said that she was so I told her my friends and I wondered if she would like to have lunch with us.  She was so pleased to be asked and graciously accepted our invitaiton.  The meal that followed would be one that I’ll never forget. 

Our new friend’s name was Skip.  She was 73 years old and traveling alone on her way from the shores of Jersey to her home in Kansas.  She’d just spent seven weeks with her old high school sweetheart.  They’d gone separate ways in college, each marrying someone else.  Although he’d had a good and faithful marriage, he’d never forgotten about Skip.  After his wife died, he got the contact information for Skip.  Unaware of this, she was wonderfully surprised to receive a beautifully handwritten letter from him in the mail after having lost touch with each other for 60 years!  She was so excited that she read it more than once to make sure it said what she thought it did.  Once she was sure, she raced up to her computer to send him an email message in response!  Yes, at 73 she’s computer savvy.

In the past year they’ve visited each other several times, rekindling their old flame.  When I asked when and where they’d be meeting next, she said they hadn’t planned another trip this time.  They were having issues.  She was ready to get married, but he did not feel the same way.  When I suggested that he might need more time, she leaned closer and said, “I’m 73, and he’s 74 going on  75.  We don’t have more time!”   At that we all laughed.  This was the type of charm that would keep us captivated. 

It’s hard to convey in writing just how charming and delightful Skip was.  She had a remarkable pep and sparkle that belied her golden age of 73.  We were enchanted the entire time we were with her.  And it wasn’t just us.  I noticed the man at the next table kept turning around to listen to her, too. 

Part of our fascination with her was her adventerous spirit.  Caught up in her spirit, I invited her to join us at our retreat.  Again, she seemed so pleased to be invited and accepted the invitation with warmth and grace.  She was even willing to stay on the retreat grounds with us so I contacted the retreat coordinator to make sure this would be all right.  I briefly told Louise, the coordinator, about the amazing woman who had captured our hearts and asked if we could work things out so that Skip could join us.  This was her response: “Yes.  She’ll be an angel in our midst.” 

So details were worked out as we finished lunch.  The girls and I were so excited that Skip would be joining us later!  We parted ways after lunch with plans to meet for the arranged dinner buffet.  By the time the retreat women gathered for dinner, many were abuzz with talk about Skip.  Something about her endeared her all who heard about her.  And when Louise met her she told Skip she would be an angel among us.  “What a lovely thought!”, was Skip’s pleased reply. 

Throughout the dinner women came by to say ‘hi’ and meet her, or whispered in my ear to ask if the story they’d heard was true.   Although everyone else was seated at large tables, Carolyn and I just happened to be seated with Skip at a cozy table for three.  Although we wanted to learn more about our new friend, Skip seemed insistent about getting to know us.  She asked what I’d spoken about in testimony and listened intently as I told her about my call to Christian writing.  Then the focus switched to Carolyn and her past as a minister for the Salvation Army.  Skip had a way of drawing things out of us.  The dinner passed way too quickly!

Back at the retreat, I took advantage of my position as emcee and introduced Skip to everyone.  They, too, were charmed by her spirit and her love story.  Who wouldn’t be? There was just something special about her presence. 

Sadly, the evening grew long, and Skip thought it best to return to her room.  I did not see her leave and would not see her again.  She left the next morning.  However, I have a special reminder of her.  Before leaving, she left a gift for me.  It was one of the darling quilted aprons from the restaurant where we’d met.  Attached was a sweet, handwritten note that I will always treasure. 

Although our paths had crossed for just a very brief time, there was something special – indescribable – about our meeting.  Others felt it, too.  When her gift was given to me the next morning, Louise was sitting across the table from me.  My heart sank when I learned that Skip was gone.  I wanted to cry.  Louise was the first to speak.  “I told you she’s an angel!  We’ll never see her again.”  And my friend, Kellie, nodded and said it was like the book “Dinner with a Perfect Stranger”, a book I’d encouraged our Bible study group to read. 

Whether she’s an angel from above or an angel on earth, there’s no doubt that she was a special lady who touched all of our hearts.  Skip, if you’re there, we all fell in love with you and hope to be graced by your presence again one day.  In the meantime, send me an email!  And don’t forget your recipe for Sweet Potato-Corn Chowder!   🙂 

If you enjoyed this post, I invite YOU to have “Dinner with a Perfect Stranger”.  It’s a short novel that is engaging, quick to read, and will give you much to ponder.  There is a sequel that I think is titled “A Day with a Perfect Stranger”.  I forget the author’s name.  Sorry!  Please respond if you know who the author is. 

To leave responses to any post, just click on the word ‘comments’ below the title of the post.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!     ~ Renee