Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Twenty-five

Day 25 - Old and New
Well, not really “old....”  I ran into a friend I haven’t seen in over a year at the gym today, and we were able to go to lunch afterward and catch up.  It was wonderful to reconnect and bring each other up to speed on what we’ve been up to over the past year (18 months?).  It started the day very nicely.
In fact, lunch was at Panera in the Hollywood district - one of only three restaurants in the chain they call “Panera Cares - Your Non-Profit Community Cafe.”  
“This Panera Cares Cafe exists to make a difference by offering the Panera experience with dignity to all in our community... those who can afford it, and those who need a hand up, & everyone in between.”  You see, if you can afford to pay for your meal, you simply put the money in a box in front of the register (the cashier will make change but will hand everything back to you to pay what you can afford).  You can also pay more than your meal costs to help cover those who can’t.  And those who cannot afford the meal can pay what they can afford, or not pay at all.  For those who cannot afford to pay, they only ask that they volunteer in the cafe for one hour in exchange for a free meal.  “You’re on your honor.  We trust you’ll do the right thing.”
Sure, some will take unfair advantage of the company’s generosity, but that doesn’t change the value of what they are doing.  I think of my friend Joe who is going hungry for lack of employment.  I was amazed at this sense of generosity to the community and I will absolutely support this company.  I will pass their name on to others who need this “hand up.”  I love these people, and want to help them do more.  What a wonderful thing!
In the evening, I went to the Next Level mixer where I always meet someone interesting.  I got to talk to a number of people I know and like, then had a long conversation with an interior designer I met for the first time at the last Next Level.  Then I had the pleasure of meeting a property manager who may be able to help me find a home of my own (and with any luck, I’ll be needing his services sooner than later).  So far, this mixer has been the most pleasurable and successful as any I’ve attended, and I try not to miss it as it comes up twice a month.
The day ended by celebrating my friend Chip’s birthday after he finished work (he performs as a keyboardist for the touring company of “Mary Poppins”).  I have known Chip for 31 years - it’s hard to imagine that’s even possible, but it’s true - and he’s even more of a gem than he was back then (which anyone who knows him will agree is saying something).  We went to the Eagle for a Blue Moon (with an orange slice, naturally) and had a wonderful time.
In all, it was a great day - a mixture of old friends and new - and I’m grateful I was around to enjoy it.  

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