Mackenzie Walters stood in the center of the large ballroom, soaking in the rays streaming in from the windows that made up the better part of three walls. For several minutes, she stood, transfixed by the lush gardens surrounding the banquet hall. The resort had touted itself as an oasis in the desert and she had to agree – nowhere else in Phoenix could she be transported to the tropics. She almost forgot it hadn’t rained in fifty-three days.
“Are you okay, Mackie?”
She glanced over her shoulder and saw her best friend, Heather, lingering in the doorway. She shrugged. “Yeah, I think so.” She turned to a nearby table and tugged at one of the white napkins to give it a taller peak. A flicker of memory made her smile; something her mom would say about busy hands and idle minds.
“I’m not so sure.”
“I appreciate your concern, but this is exactly what I want to do.”
“I think you’re in shock,” Heather said. “I mean, your parents died only four weeks ago and immediately you started planning this extravaganza.” She made a sweeping motion with her left arm.
Mackenzie nodded. “Yeah, there wasn’t much time to pull it together, but I think the place looks nice.”
“It should, for what you’re paying for it.”
She closed her eyes and inhaled. “Do you smell that?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “It’s chicken piccata, pasta and fresh green beans, but it might as well be filet mignon and caviar.” She nudged a glass to line it up with the knife at another place setting. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the experience.”
Heather shook her head. “I don’t understand. You could’ve paid off your car, or gone on a nice vacation.”
“I don’t want to go anywhere, and I will pay for my car- with my own money, in my own time.” Mackenzie straightened a fork at another setting and checked her watch. “I’ve got fifteen minutes.”
“Why would you waste so much money on this?”
“It’s not wasted!” Mackenzie frowned. “Just because you would keep it to yourself doesn’t mean I’ve wasted anything.”
“Heather held her palms out in a conciliatory manner. “Okay, okay. Sorry.”
“My parents would’ve been delighted by this. They would be proud to know I shared my good fortune. I hope you can celebrate with me, but if you’d feel more comfortable leaving, I’ll understand.”
They held eye contact for several moments.
“Of course I’ll stay,” Heather whispered.
Mackenzie checked her watch again. “It’s almost time! Will you help me with the doors?”
Mackenzie took one of the double doors and propped it open, while Heather held the opposite door. Upon seeing the crowd already gathered outside, she put on her best smile.
“Welcome to my banquet. I’m glad you could come.” Mackenzie clasped the hand of the first woman in line. Instead of noting the woman’s dirty clothing layers, she peered into her eyes; a beautiful shade of green.
“I’m glad you’re here. I hope you enjoy the meal.” She hugged the stoop-shouldered man who’d been next in line.
She smiled at the group of five that approached her next- a mom, dad and three children. The oldest child appeared to be around twelve. The youngest, a toddler clung to her mom’s leg. “Thank you for coming. I’m delighted you could make it.”
For the last few weeks, Mackenzie had scoured the alleys and downtown street corners for homeless people to invite. She’d arranged transportation to pick them up at several locations since they wouldn’t likely be able to attend otherwise.
After one-hundred-twenty similar greetings, Mackenzie and Heather pulled the doors to the dining room closed. Mackenzie watched through the windows as eight servers began distributing chilled plates of mixed greens. She looked to her right and glimpsed Heather’s face, noting the moistness of her eyes. She patted her friend’s shoulder and then started toward her car.
“Wait.” Heather grasped her arm. “I understand now.” She sniffed. “These people never would’ve had a meal like this.” Tears streamed down her cheeks and she threw her arms around her friend. “Thank you for inviting me to share this with you.”
Mackenzie pulled away and grinned. “You want to help me get the presents?”
“Presents?” Heather’s jaw hung slack.
“Of course! It’s only two weeks until Christmas, so I thought it would be a great surprise to hand out gifts on a random Tuesday in December.”
“I’d love to! It’s a shame we can’t do this every year.”
“Maybe we can.” Mackenzie wriggled her eyebrows. “I didn’t spend all the money at once.”
“Maybe I can get some donations for next year,” Heather said. “I mean, if you want help.”
“We can make it a new tradition!”
Thank you, Emilio, for sharing another of your wonderful photos! (If you haven’t seen his photography, click on the photo to check out his blog. You won’t be disappointed.) The inspiration for this story was obviously Emilio’s photo 🙂
My first inclination was to make the setting a wedding, but I didn’t love that idea (too obvious). Thanksgiving was last week here in the U.S. so it’s been a time of reflection and appreciation for my blessings. In light of Thanksgiving and the nearing of Christmas, I wanted to write a story that focused on the sharing of abundance rather than the accumulation of “more.”
Thanks for reading – have a wonderful Thursday!