Monday, January 07, 2008

New Year's Resolution #1

Well, we never made it to the Outback Steakhouse this past Wednesday. It was Dad's birthday and we left the choice up to him. He chose simplicity; a night at Casa Donaghy with catered food from Paul Revere's (the local pizza place that Rebecca and I do in fact "revere." Man those Greek fries!).

But alas, the other night we were determined to hit the hallowed halls of Aussie Steakdom ('cause that gift card is burning a hole in our collective wallet!). So there we were, all gussied up and proper: and the sheila (that's Aussie for colleen, which is Irish for young girl) that took our name said, in her finest non-Aussie accent "It's a 2 hour wait."

Yup. 2 hours...

Consisting of 60 minutes each, by the way, for a grand total of 120 minutes.

Now you may be thinking, dear reader, that anyone in their right mind would 86 the place for a reasonable alternative (to which I reply, "Have you not tasted the Outback Special?"). But several factors like tent pegs helped us stand our ground:

1. the fact that we were already out,
2. ready to eat,
3. holding a gift card to said establishment.
4. and the Olive Garden (other gift card, thanks Mom!) was about 30 minutes away with its own wait.

So we waited. Rebecca actually split for Target down the street to return something, so that killed time. I walked around outside, perused the Office Max, the back of the buildings where the dumpsters sat gloomily (hey, they come in lots of different shapes...who designs those things?), and I finally grabbed a stool at Baja Fresh for some $1.60 chips and salsa to tide me over. When I returned to the non-Aussie hostess and inquired about our progress, I got a little frown and a "One hour, 17 minutes."

"Is that it! Cool."

Does this sound ridiculous?

NO! Because it got me to thinking... globally...

Back in 1987-ish, a Polish family stayed with us at the Browns Mills domicile in NJ. The Sikorsgies had a beautiful little boy, not yet a year old, who needed open heart surgery. Browns Mills is home, not only to Alba's Pizza (oh man those Sicilian pies), but also to Deborah Heart and Lung Center, world-renowned for their expert cardio-care. So old Joe Frazier from the Holy Name at St. Ann's asked if we could set them up for a few weeks. It was more a blessing for us, as often is the case in serving others, than it was for the family from Poland. For we got to see our life through their eyes, and their life through their stories.

The fact of the matter is, most Americans live like kings and queens. We have so much more than we need, and compared to the rest of the planet, most of us are spoiled beyond comprehension. A two hour wait for food was half the wait for them back in the late 80's in Poland. They could wait up to 5 hours for their meat, or dairy, or meds. When we took them through our local Acme they staggered about like drunkards, like kids on Christmas morning. All of this food! All wrapped up for you, and COLD? And the cold air is just leaking out onto the floors as we walk by, and the refrigerators are packed and everything is so fresh. You can buy as much as you like? This was unheard of.

Move your hand over the spinning globe to Haiti, to the slums of Cite Soleil, to Africa, to the fear filled streets of Darfur, to any number of places where daily life is a real sacrifice and a physical, sweat and blood and bone, life and death struggle.

So we waited in the cozy strip mall of Springfield Township, and there were no guns, no pollution, no dictators, no death squads, no malaria. And the meal was wonderful, and the service was a gift, and there is soooo much more to be thankful for.

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION #1: No more complaining.
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