I recall hearing in January 2014, on CBC Radio’s Ontario Morning, a brief interview by host Wei Chen with Barrie, Ontario, writer Lee Ballantyne. His wife had died shortly before, in December. When eating a meal alone in a restaurant Lee observed a couple evidently enjoying dinner—and each other’s company. Their laughing and smiling reminded him of his wife.
He scribbled a note on his napkin, and when paying his tab he also paid for the couple, requesting that the server pass the note to them, but not until after he’d left the establishment.
The Toronto Star reported the substance of Ballantyne’s napkin note:
“You don’t know me but my beautiful wife of 43 years died last week. Tonight I dined alone for the first time. You remind me of us many years ago. Please allow me to buy your dinner. Enjoy! It will put a smile on Carol’s face and make me happy . . . for now. Happy New Year! Lee B. Pay it forward.” (Accessed online, May 26, 2014.)
However, the couple decided they would like to track him down and take him out for dinner. The incident was posted on the internet and went viral.
Michelle McQuigge of The Canadian Press January 15, 2014 wrote (source, Edmonton Journal, accessed online Jan 16/14):
. . . Lee Ballantyne . . . was doing little more than paying tribute to his high school sweetheart while trying to salve his own grief at her loss. But Ballantyne’s son Jason said his father’s decision to honour a new generation of lovers has resonated all over the world, taking him from anonymous Good Samaritan to global inspiration.
Romantics and cynics alike have helped spread the tale of a grieving widower who felt compelled to buy dinner for an unknown young couple who reminded him of happy days with his late wife, who had died just a week before after a lengthy battle with lung cancer.
- What do you make of this story?
- Can you identify with the fresh, raw grief that Lee Ballantyne evidently experienced at the time of the restaurant incident?
- What thoughts might you have about his deed?
- Is this a Gaze-raiser in your view?
Thank you for following these Raise Your Gaze musings.
We’ll have a further look at the incident, and wrap it up next time.
Peter A. Black is a freelance writer in Southwestern Ontario, and is author of “Parables from the Pond” – a children’s / family book (mildly educational, inspirational in orientation, character reinforcing). Finalist – Word Alive Press. ISBN: 1897373-21-X. The book has found a place in various settings with a readership ranging from kids to senior adults.
His inspirational column, P-Pep! appears weekly in The Guide-Advocate (of Southwestern Ontario). His articles have appeared in 50 Plus Contact and testimony, and several newspapers in Ontario. Peter’s current book project comprises a collection of 52 column articles, interspersed at points with brief inspirational statements of encouragement.