the best birthday gift

My birthday has just past and the best birthday gift I received was not a present (though I do like all those that I received). The best gift I was given was a suggestion from a friend. For my birthday, I went out to dinner at Carmine’s, a family-style, Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with my friends Kristen and Mary. After randomly discussing people going out to dinner and intentionally buying more than they could eat in order to have food left over to take home, we quickly realized that we had too much food for the three of us. Even though all we had ordered was a bottle of wine, a salad and a plate of penne alla vodka, the wine was the only thing the three of us were able to finish. The salad and pasta could have easily fed 4-5 people instead of just the 3 of us that were there.

We knew that we would not be able to take the leftovers with us since we didn’t live nearby and we were heading from dinner to Joshua Tree in Murray Hill and no-one wants to head to the bar with a doggie-bag in hand. Mary came up with a wonderful idea during dinner — at the end of the meal, we should ask for a doggie-bag and give our leftovers to a homeless person on the street. At once I knew that I loved this idea and I wanted to do it. So once we could eat no more, we asked the waiter to please wrap up the remaining salad and pasta for us to take with us. After dinner, we left Carmine’s and headed for the subway to Grand Central Terminal. Since I take the train into GCT everyday, I knew that we’d be able to find someone in need of dinner right outside, and that’s what we did. When we were walking down 42nd street right in-front of the station, we passed a girl and guy, not much older than ourselves, looking rather glum and disheveled sitting on the sidewalk with their dog and a sign saying they would work for anything. You could tell they had been on the streets for a bit of time, but that they were sit somewhat new to being out there — or at least, that was my take on them. Once we passed them, I turned around and asked them if they would like our leftovers from dinner. They both looked up with relief across their faces. The girl’s face lit up and she responded very simply, “yes, please”.

Her very simple and polite response nearly made me cry. I am fortunate enough to not only have a roof over my head and food on my plate, but I also know that I will never need to think about they day I could end up on the street. I am blessed to know that there are enough people in my life that would take care of me if a reason ever arose in which I found myself homeless and/or hungry. As soon as she said yes, I placed the bag on the ground in front of them and their belongings and turned to continue walking. I was not looking for a thank you. Nor did I want to make it into a production and draw any unnecessary attention to these people who were just trying to survive.

Not only did this make me feel good because I know I did a good deed, but I have been trying to discern lately what I’m called to do and earlier this week I decided that I am called to serve others. The last three things listed on my bucket list are to make a difference in someone’s life, inspire someone and to be a good person. I have these all marked off as a “continual work in progress”as even if I do make a difference or inspire someone, I hope I can continue to do it and make an impact on someone else’s life. And doing a good deed doesn’t make you a good person, being a good person involves a sum of good deeds and actions done by someone over the entirety of their life…

Once I turned to keep walking, I noticed that almost everyone within 20-feet of me on the sidewalk had stopped to look at me. I wish I could say I don’t know why they looked shocked, but I know why. We don’t often enough see others doing kind actions to others. People in Manhattan don’t tend to take their leftovers with them to hand them out to a stranger. I want to change this. It’s not that hard. From now on, whenever I’m out in the city for dinner, I am going to ask to take any leftovers that I may have and give them to someone who most likely won’t have dinner otherwise. Maybe if you and I all start doing it, by the time I have kids they can learn to do this as well. And hopefully by the time that happens, they won’t have to turn around and have a sidewalk full of people staring at them with judgmental looks. Hopefully our generation can reinstitute chivalry and manners into society. Maybe if we can do that, we truly can make the world a better place…


  1. Andrea · September 27, 2009

    >Hey Lauren,Your blog post just popped up on my facebook status, and I just wanted to let you know that story was wonderful. Sometimes we get caught up in ourselves and our own problems, but at the end of the day we all have something we can do to better the life of another. Have a good week!


  2. Pingback: Day 10 – Plentiful Harvest – grateful. thankful. blessed.

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