Paulette Delcourt: Bad Days and Bennigan's Memorial Beers
Maybe my bad day wasn't so bad after all. A look at the meaning of Memorial Day puts life in perspective.
Tuesday morning, my boss forwarded me an email about a co-worker. I responded to the email, when suddenly I realized the reply went to my co-worker—not my boss.
My dilated pupils stared in disbelief at the screen. My eyes, impaired by a pair of crunchy contact lenses and a hyperactive “fight or flight” response struggled to grasp what I had done.
Within seconds I sent a retraction with a smiley face emoticon, but the cold-hearted recipient seemed to relish in her reply—“Was this intended for me?” she inquired. She knew full well it was not.
It was an embarrassing, mood-altering mistake. There I was without even a stale piece of Halloween candy to soothe me, left to sit in the stew of my careless error.
A few hours later, my son came home in a bad mood. My daughter heightened the fun by tattling on her brother. I punished both of them by making them spend the rest of the afternoon together so I could deal with the hornets’ nest I so deftly kicked.
My husband came home. I thought I’d ruin his day too, when I stumbled on an interesting article about a woman whose workday took a more positive turn than mine.
On March 28, a waitress named Hannah Hobbs was working at Bennigan’s when a patron came in and asked to leave a memorial beer on the bar. She poured the beer, next to which the patron left a note.
On any other day Hannah might have marked time by her sore feet and tip money, but this day was different—in fact it was life-changing. Moved by the gesture, she posted a photo of the beverage on Facebook with surprising results—1.2 million “likes.”
Bennigan's also initiated a company-wide campaign to memorialize fallen soldiers with their “Wall of Heroes” program. The beer declined my request for an interview.
It was Navy Officer Lt. j.g. Francis Toner who inspired the memorial. Sandy boots and fatigue never kept him home from work. Surely his feet were sore, for different reasons than Hannah’s. He was probably hot, and homesick, and buoyed only by news from home and the occasional cold beer.
Tragically, the unarmed Toner, and three of his fellow officers came under attack as they jogged that day, and Toner was gunned down.
Before he died, Lieutenant Toner was able to distract the gunman and save the two of his colleagues’ lives. For his bravery he was posthumously awarded the Silver Star—an award he would undoubtedly trade for the chance to drink the warm, stale beer poured in his honor.
So what did that note say? "In Memory of Lt. j.g. Francis Toner USN. Killed in action 27 March 2009, Baikh Province, Afghanistan. ‘Non Sibi Sed Patriae.’ Not forgotten."
Not forgotten indeed. That’s why they call it “ Memorial Day.”