Joe Celebrity walks into an expensive restaurant in Hollywood. The restaurant is full of people. Some are there are on dates, others are hanging with friends, there’s even a marriage proposal going on in the corner. All told, maybe 70 patrons are happily dining in the restaurant tonight.
Joe Celebrity walks up to the maitre’d and whispers something in his ear. The host steps back in surprise and says, “Are you sure, sir? There are many here tonight? Why the bar alone …”
Joe Celebrity interrupts the man and says, “Yes, absolutely. And here’s my card. I’ll send someone to pick it up at closing.” Joe left the restaurant, walking back outside.
The maitre’d steps toward the center of the room and announces in a loud voice, “Everyone, may I have your attention? Tonight your meal will be paid for by Mr. Celebrity. Everything is on him!”
There is a loud murmur from the crowd, and applause breaks out. Smiling faces abound, and more than one person calls for his waiter so he can order more drinks.
But inside their minds something is happening…
“What a show off. That guy just wants attention.”
“What a nice guy to pay for everyone’s meal like that.”
“Who does he think he is? Does he think he’s better than I am? I’ll pay for my own meal thank you!”
“I always heard he was generous.”
“This is freakin’ awesome! I’m going to try that Scotch I’ve been wanting but couldn’t afford.”
“I don’t even know who that was. Is he famous?”
“That guy’s a horrible actor. I hate his movies.”
“What a fun story we will have to share with the kids!”
“What a class act! That guy is a real gentleman.”
“He sure made tonight special for us!”
“I wonder how many frequent flier miles he just bought.”
“If I had his money I’d donate most of it to charity. No one needs that kind of wealth.”
“What a pompous, arrogant prick. Who does he think he is?”
“That’s right, dick, buy your way onto the front cover of a tabloid with this ridiculous display of fake generosity.”
“I guess he needed the tax write off.”
Seventy opinions, seventy reactions, all in response to one single act.
But none of them knew why he did it. None of them could even guess. Because none of them actually knew him.
None of them knew that he was sitting in this restaurant a year ago when his mother told him she had a lump in her breast.
None of them knew that this was the restaurant where his world came crashing down upon him; when he realized that no matter how much money he had, he couldn’t save her.
None of them knew that this was the anniversary of the day he started counting the minutes that he would still have a mother on this earth; the day he dropped everything to spend as much time with her as he could. He had a year with her.
None of them knew the real reason he paid for everyone’s meal that night; to honor his mother, to pay homage to her spirit, her strength, her generosity, her love.
They couldn’t know, but they all thought they did. Their assumptions about his motives said more about them than about him. But it didn’t matter. He didn’t really need them to know.
He knew, and that was enough.