Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Serving of Kindness for a Solo Traveler

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A Serving of Kindness for a Solo Traveler

Article excerpt

She wasn't used to eating by herself, especially not in a strange city. Meals are almost always shared with her husband back at their retirement community in Red Deer, Alberta. But she was traveling solo this time, and there was little choice but to take a deep breath, put on a brave smile, and tell the restaurant host, "Table for one, please."

That was the situation Cecile Hanna faced one evening last fall, when she was in Boston over the weekend for a meeting. When she entered the hotel restaurant for dinner, Mrs. Hanna didn't even bring a book - that indispensable companion favored by many solo diners. At least the maitre d' offered her a consolation prize of sorts: a table with a window view.

But while Mrs. Hanna was eating and watching the passing scene, six young women across the room were watching her.

"We looked over and saw this little adorable woman eating alone," explains Courtney Osborne, a member of the group. "We kept thinking somebody was going to come and meet her, but nobody did. I thought, if that was my grandmother or my mother, I would want somebody to go over and be friendly."

That sparked an idea: How about asking her to join them for dessert? After a brief discussion, they summoned a waiter to convey their invitation.

"The waiter said that some girls at another table were celebrating a birthday and wanted me to join them," recalls Mrs. Hanna, a retired teacher.

She happily accepted. The waiter brought a seventh chair to the round table, and the women, all in their 20s, introduced themselves: Erica, Beth, Kira, Kristy, Tiffany, and Courtney. Then Hanna and her new companions, whose careers include marketing, insurance, public relations, real estate, and fashion design, settled into a lively conversation. They discussed jobs, marriage, children, even religion.

"We told her we were celebrating a birthday and an engagement," Osborne says. …

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