Why would you?

Christmas in Germany is a magical time. There are Christmas shops called Christkindlmarkts, that set up in the city centers. The markets are filled with ornaments and holiday foods that make them a cherished addition to the season. Steve and I were living in Frankfurt in the 90s and decided to go into a gasthaus in the city center (altstadt) for lunch. The places were packed with holiday shoppers and we were unable to find an open table so the Fraulein motioned us toward a table that each gasthaus reserves for its regulars called the stammtisch. It is improper to take a seat there yourself. You must be invited to it. The table was in the corner, large and soon after we ordered a gluhwein (hot spiced wine) the table began to fill up with the regulars making their way from the market. They were full of good holiday spirit, very inviting and before we knew it food, beer and cognac started coming to the table without any ordering taking place. War stories flowed in both German and English, and of course all of the older men at the table explained that “they fought the Russians” during WWII. We sat there for hours laughing and eating and drinking. Then it dawned on me; we had nowhere NEAR the amount of deutschmarks we would need to pay for our portion of what we’d just enjoyed. We started pulling together what money we had and pondered how we could meet our obligation. When the Frauline brought us our bill it showed only two gluhweins. She nodded toward the man across the table; the owner of the restaurant. He smiled and lifted his glass. Steve and I began to protest that we couldn’t accept such a kind offer. Then the owner asked us something I still think about routinely. He looked at us both and in heavily accented English asked, “Why would you question good fortune?” He was so right. I try now, to accept kindness with grace. I no longer protest when a friend or colleague offers to pick up lunch, or buy me a coffee. I know it makes them feel good to extend the kindness and I, in turn, remember to not question good fortune.

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