I have this little ritual. I don’t know about you but my favorite meal of the day is breakfast. After a great morning workout, I love going to diners with great coffee and enjoying whatever style of eggs meets my fancy that day. I catch up on reading some emails, responding to a text, or skimming the paper while over-hearing morning chit-chat of my fellow diners. I enjoy this little morning ritual whenever I can.
But I also have another motivation I was looking to satisfy this morning. I always keep my eye out for an older woman dining alone. They are usually sitting at a table rather than at the counter. I wonder what is going on in her mind. She always seems to have a solemn face. Perhaps this diner was a favorite breakfast stop for her and her late husband. Maybe she is just looking for some human interaction from what has now become a lonely life waiting patiently for the next visit from out-of-state kids or grandchildren. I imagine my mother, whom I lost last year to cancer, sitting alone in a diner like this, feeling lonely. It breaks my heart.
I have been in the retirement business for almost three decades, so I know a thing or two about retirement statistics. I understand that most women, on average, are four years younger than their husbands, and their life expectancy is four years longer. That simple math tells us that she will spend the last eight years of her life without her spouse, partner, and best friend. I not only know this from reading the stats but have seen this in my retirement planning practice first-hand. I also did community work in a nursing home in high school and remembered naively saying, “Wow, this place is 90% full of old ladies? Where are all the old guys?” The nurse on the shift day said, “they don’t last as long.”
It is also a fact that when she lost her spouse, she likely also faced a reduction or loss of social security or pension and will probably have to pay someone to do those home fix-it projects that her husband always handled. Maybe there are also medical, or nursing home bills left unpaid. So now, money may be tighter than ever. I wonder, did they plan their finances? Does she know how to handle money? Did he have life insurance? Did they save and invest enough? The statics, unfortunately, say - likely no.
So, back to the diner. I was able to satisfy my motivation this morning when I motioned to the waitress to come over so I could tell her I wanted to buy that woman her breakfast, but I didn’t want her to know it was me. I have done this many times and usually get that, “oh, that’s so nice of you look of approval.” But other than that, I can’t get any browning points from the lady diner. Because as a great man once said, “giving a gift and expecting something in return is more like a transaction.” All I can receive in return is the satisfaction of knowing I did a small but nice thing for someone I didn’t know.
So, keep your eye out for a lonely older woman at the diner so you can anonymously buy her breakfast. It will help make her day a little better and warm your soul.