The Covid-19 virus has ruined many small businesses, and local restaurants in and around our town of Mooresville, NC are suffering. My wife and I have several local eateries we like, but we especially enjoy two. When the mandate came that closed them to only take out, we discussed our role in helping them stay open, and decided to make a conscious effort to order some meals from each, realizing that, while take out is not the same as dining in their warm, relaxing atmospheres, they needed our business. If we wanted to enjoy them later, we had to support them now. So, recently we ordered a take-out supper from one, Blu Star, and at the correct time we drove to pick up our waiting dinner.
Usually if we drove to Blu Star’s location during the dinner hour, traffic would be heavy and parking tight. Not this evening of the pandemic. Boom! Pulled up right in front, and Mary Ann hopped out to get our meal. While I waited, I counted cars in the shopping center—seven parked, but one soon left when its driver came out of the juice bar with her cup of cold, multi-colored liquid. One driver of a huge, black truck parked it deftly and getting out walked towards two restaurants behind me. Waiting for Mary Ann, I recalled the adage that seemed appropriate for so many businesses in the current situation—any port in a storm. While only one customer, the driver was a person who would spend money, I hoped, at one of the restaurants behind me. He was part of the port so needed right now.
Mary Ann returned to the car and as soon as she sat in her seat, said, “You won’t believe what Nelson [the owner] was doing.” She buckled her seat belt and as we drove out of the forlorn shopping center, she told me how Nelson and a worker were busily packing Styrofoam containers with spaghetti meals for Charlotte homeless. When she asked him about what he was doing, he explained that his church was participating in a program to get good meals to homeless folks, and his restaurant was providing nourishing dinners-spaghetti piled high with yummy sauce, garlic bread, and salad.
Before we had left our home to pick up our dinner, we had discussed how much to tip the manager, who we have known since we moved here. Mary Ann suggested a good sum and when she paid our bill, she gave Stephanie the twenty. Yet, driving home and hearing that story, I realized that no tip was large enough for what was happening in Blu Star, one of the many businesses feeling the crunch of this epidemic. There, in the midst of such a need for income, Nelson and his staff were giving to others who had less than he and them.
Arriving home, I enjoyed my dinner, even if not eaten in the cozy confines of Blu Star. But the more I think of what Mary Ann witnessed, the more I realize that there, on the spread-out tables of Blu Star, was the Sermon on the Mount being played out in real time. Right there.