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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Meal And A Moment Of Grace At Cambodian Thai

Occasionally we repost an article that touches us just right. Here our friend, David Phillips, does a little geeking out about a local restaurant's local policy.


I don’t need much of a push when it comes to Thai food. In fact, I visit a friend in Columbus about once a year and, when I do, I try to convince him that a trip to Dayton to a restaurant called Thai 9 is an imperative. He gives in, we drive over an hour out of the way, we eat and I smile. So when I was asked to go to dinner at a restaurant called Cambodian Thai in the downtown of my home city of South Bend, not only did I say “yes” with haste, I felt a little embarrassed that I was unfamiliar with the venue.


I arrived that evening just before 6:30 PM at the charming eatery on the corner of S. Michigan and Jefferson. My guest was running late, so I took a seat in the lobby. Just after I sat down a moderately disheveled and distressed man came through the door. He walked up to the counter, declared himself homeless and said he was “real hungry.” I was expecting the man to be turned away–perhaps politely–so I began to reach for my wallet, thinking “I can do something about this.” To my delight, my assumed charity was unnecessary. The hostess (who it turns out is the manager) simply asked the man what he would like, and had him take a seat. I believe he ordered fried rice with chicken. Less than ten minutes later, she came back with a “to go” bag, and said “here’s a Coke too.” The fascinating bit is she did it with little fanfare. As if to say “this is what you’re supposed to do.” And of course, it is.

My guest arrived soon after and I recounted the tale to her as well. The waiter then came to take our order. I decided I would order the same meal as the homeless man. Some sort of symbolic show of solidarity, I suppose. I don’t mind telling you, I chose wisely. It was delicious.

The next morning, I couldn’t get the act of kindness out of my head, so I decided to post about it on Facebook. Hey, it’s a popular place to crank, and share pictures of your pets, so why not a nice story about people being decent? Little did I know what would become of such an innocent gesture. In short order, the “shares” went into the hundreds and the “likes” into the thousands. The next day I was contacted by the local business reporter for the South Bend Tribune, and then Monday evening, WSBT, one of the local networks covered the story. I actually began to worry. The kind people at Cambodian Thai might not have been looking for all this attention. Then today, I received a friend request from a young lady whose name I was unfamiliar with. I checked out her page to make sure she was a real person (it’s the internet, yo) and found that she is the very person who served the homeless gentleman. I quickly accepted her request, and not long after, she posted this sweet message to my wall:

“I just wanna personally thank you for what you have done for me and my family’s restaurant. I really appreciate it and I hope to see you soon.”

Not to go all Jerry Maguire on you, but we do live in a cynical world. Where acts of kindness and decency seem to fall outside of the main far too often. Sonita may have been thanking me, but it is I who should have been thanking her. She made me feel good about being a member of the human race. That doesn’t happen every day.

So please, if you’re ever in downtown South Bend, and looking for a great place to eat, do patronize Cambodian Thai. Their food is flavorful on your tongue, comforting to your stomach, and warm in your heart.

Cambodian Thai
229 S. Michigan St.
South Bend, IN 46601
574-289-2877

For Sonita, all the good people at Cambodian Thai, my Facebook friends who shared the story, and to those less fortunate than so many of us.

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