Bet­ter than MREs*

The Boyertown Area Times - - LOCAL NEWS - Jeff Hall, of Honey Brook, con­trib­utes col­umns to Berks-Mont News­pa­pers. Ques­tions/ com­ments­may be di­rected to jef­frey­hall77@com­ Jeff Hall

Over ten years ago, Barb and I, along with sev­eral oth­ers from our church, started a pro­gram we called Op­er­a­tion En­cour­age­ment. The ob­jec­tive of the pro­gram was to pray for, com­mu­ni­cate with and send care pack­ages to the men and women serv­ing in our Armed Ser­vices. In­cluded in the ob­jec­tive was to en­cour­age other mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­tion to join us. I chaired the com­mit­tee and the As­sis­tant Pas­tor was vi­tal in at­tend­ing our monthly meet­ings and pro­vid­ing guid­ance in mak­ing the com­mit­tee a suc­cess. The com­mit­tee started when we had many more troops fight­ing in the Mid­dle East. There were only a hand­ful of Ser­vice Mem­bers from our church in the Mid­dle East. How­ever, over the years, the pro­gram spread to in­clude Ser­vice mem­bers sta­tioned any­where in the world and through word of mouth the num­ber grew to a to­tal of 38 Ser­vice mem­bers.

Some of the Ser­vice mem­bers we sel­dom heard from but we fre­quently were up­dated by their rel­a­tives. A few, be­cause of their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, their sta­tus, etc. it was a bit dif­fi­cult to keep cur­rent with them. Then, we had some very gre­gar­i­ous mem­bers who kept in almost con­stant touch with us. Such was the case of a Marine by the name of Jeremy. Even though he was in the field in the Mid­dle East, when he re­turned to base camp, he was a pro­lific emailer, with an ap­par­ent huge dis­tri­bu­tion list. So many peo­ple fell in love with Jeremy just be­cause he was Jeremy. I re­mem­ber when he and I first started to com­mu­ni­cate via email, he ad­dressed me as Mr. Hall. I told him to call me Jeff. He told me he was un­com­fort­able call­ing me by my first name be­cause he was in his early twen­ties. I think I won the dis­agree­ment by telling him if he was old enough to put his life on the line in the Mid­dle East, he was old enough to call me Jeff.

Jeremy sur­vived two de­ploy­ments to Iraq and in be­tween de­ploy­ments and other times when he was on leave he vis­ited our church sev­eral times. One time I re­ceived a call from our As­sis­tant Pas­tor, who ad­vised me Jeremy was avail­able to go to lunch with us. I said I would be glad to at­tend the lunch but he needed to agree that I would pay for it. With­out not too much arm-twist­ing, he agreed and we set a date. Since Jeremy wanted to bring a fel­low Marine, with whom he was sta­tioned in Iraq, our small party num­bered four. For the most part when Barb and I eat out, we may “fast food it” or go to a diner. To splurge, we may go to Oliver Gar­den. Since this was a spe­cial oc­ca­sion, fast food was ob­vi­ously out. How­ever, I thought we could go to Ruby Tues­days or a sim­i­lar restau­rant.

We had a re­fined, el­e­gant widow at church that found out we were tak­ing the two Marines out to lunch. She prac­ti­cally de­manded that we take our guests to the Gen­eral War­ren Inn, in Malvern. She harped on this so much that it was felt that she not only had some con­nec­tion with the restau­rant but she was go­ing to pick up the tab! I had never eaten at the restau­rant (gen­er­ally above my pay grade), but de­cided since she was so per­sis­tent, we would fol­low her in­struc­tions. Both Jeremy and his friend ar­rived in their Marine dress uni­forms. We had a grand time at the restau­rant and near the end of the meal our As­sis­tant Pas­tor be­gan to ex­cuse him­self for a minute. I said: “be­fore you leave, we should de­cide whether or not we are go­ing to or­der dessert.” He replied: “It’s up to you. You’re pay­ing.” All of a sud­den, the meal didn’t taste quite so good (my say­ing is that a free meal al­ways tastes the best). I swal­lowed hard and know­ing I had my credit card with me that we might as well go “whole hog”.

The lunch cost over $100! I waited and waited for our wait­ress, Rose, to de­liver the check. Fi­nally, I asked her to come to the ta­ble, at which time I asked for the check. She said the check had al­ready been PAID! Now the meal tasted per­fect. When I got home, I wrote a two page let­ter to the widow at church thank­ing her pro­fusely for the lunch and even told her that Barb and I would have to take her to the restau­rant for a meal. Later, I found out that the widow had not paid for the meal. Now I was per­plexed.

Our wed­ding an­niver­sary was sev­eral weeks af­ter our lun­cheon so I made a din­ner reser­va­tion for Barb and me. I also asked to have Rose as our wait­ress. Rose re­mem­bered us and I ex­plained the en­tire story to her, say­ing I have no idea who paid for the meal. Rose told me that an­other wait­ress in the ad­ja­cent room had paid for the en­tire bill. Rose in­tro­duced me to the wait­ress and I asked her why she would do such a nice thing. She told me she likes to do­nate to good causes but she likes to see her gifts be­ing used/ en­joyed and not be­ing wasted. She wasn’t to­tally suc­cess­ful be­cause I’m sure the meal did go to my waist.

The re­sults of the wait­ress’ kind­ness: I wrote a thank you note to the wait­ress, wrote a let­ter to the man­ager of the restau­rant to let him know what kind of spe­cial em­ploy­ees he has, and I have taken Barb to our an­niver­sary din­ner there sev­eral times (the last one was about two weeks be­fore this writ­ing). Rose left the restau­rant some years ago. How­ever, when we eat at the restau­rant, I see the wait­ress who paid for the meal and still give her a big thank you and a hug.

* MRE: “Meal Ready-toEat” – A self-con­tained, in­di­vid­ual field ra­tion sup­plied by the United States mil­i­tary for its Ser­vice mem­bers for use in com­bat or other field con­di­tions where or­ga­nized food fa­cil­i­ties are not avail­able. http://viet­,_ Ready-to-Eat.

Now, I guess you can un­der­stand the ti­tle of the col­umn.

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