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The Cap'n Crunch French Toast served at the Blue Moon Cafe in Fells Point.
The Cap'n Crunch French Toast served at the Blue Moon Cafe in Fells Point. (Michael Ares / Baltimore Sun)

With all the negativity in the country over the impeachment hearings, hate crimes, domestic terrorism and political polarization, it’s easy to forget that warm human interactions are still possible — even among people of different races.

After having my annual MRI at Johns Hopkins Hospital a few months ago to evaluate a slow-growing neuroendocrine tumor on my pancreas, Natalie, my wife, and I went to the Blue Moon Cafe in Fell’s Point for breakfast. We had to kill a few hours before seeing the oncologist who would give us the test results. I love the Cap’n Crunch French toast at the Blue Moon, but I wondered if we could be seated since the small restaurant was often crowded.

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Luck wasn’t on our side — all the tables were filled and there would be a 20-minute wait. I hate waiting, even for Cap’n Crunch, so I turned to leave. As I opened the front door, I realized that Natalie was not behind me so I looked back and found her talking to a young black couple seated at a table for five. I knew she was asking if we could share their table. Although I often cringe at the idea of intruding on people’s personal space in restaurants, Natalie is bolder. They agreed to her request and she motioned me over.

We sat down, introduced ourselves and started chatting. Kevin ran a catering business and Kim was a hospice nurse. They were at least 30 years younger than us. Kim had just finished a week of bed rest during her pregnancy and was about to go back to work. I told them about my MRI and I also mentioned that I had taught at the University of Maryland Baltimore County before retiring. Kim asked what I taught and when I told her my specialty was the sociology of race relations, she described a diversity training session at her workplace. Natalie talked about her teaching and research about women and crime and they seemed very interested.

The conversation was friendly and pleasant. Since they had already ordered, their food arrived before ours. Kevin held out his hand to me and I thought to myself: “What the heck is he doing?" Natalie took Kim’s outstretched hand so I grasped Kevin’s, feeling most uncomfortable. Then it dawned on me. They were asking us to join them in saying grace before eating. Being a Jewish atheist, my first reaction was indignation. It was presumptuous of Kevin to assume we would be comfortable with this. We were neither religious nor Christian. But, I went along. After all, they were gracious enough to share their table. Kevin thanked Jesus for their food and for watching over Kim during her pregnancy. He then asked Jesus to watch over me because he knew I was going to see the oncologist. I was really touched. He was including me, whom he had just met, in his prayer. My atheist outrage quickly dissolved, and I enjoyed the warmth of the moment.

Our food came while they were finishing theirs. As I was enjoying my French toast, heaped with whipped cream and fresh fruit, Kevin got up to pay his bill while the three of us continued talking. When he returned, we said our goodbyes and wished each other luck with our medical issues. I thought about asking for his card but we rarely use caterers. They left.

All in all, we were together for about 20 minutes. As Natalie and I were finishing our meal, I motioned to the server to bring our check. He came over and said, “There’s no charge for you.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “The other gentleman paid your bill,” he responded. I was stunned. We had never met them before and will probably never cross paths again. We didn’t know their last names. We couldn’t even thank them. Our differences in age and race didn’t matter. Just a simple human gesture of connection and kindness.

So, Kevin and Kim, wherever you are, thank you for a lovely meal.

Fred L. Pincus(pincus@umbc.edu) is emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

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