12/05/2012 09:14 pm ET Updated Feb 04, 2013

Forgiveness and Serendipity

This Thanksgiving I witnessed forgiveness and serendipity in action. My sister was coming to town and I wanted to arrange a pain-free time together as we are still trying to get to know each other as adults. It's a cliché to talk about holidays and family... we all know how stressful it can be and after Sandy, I wanted to avoid any additional problems, including where to eat. So when an old friend invited us both for a free buffet being offered up by a neighborhood restaurant (I shan't mention the name to protect my own interests for next year), I leapt at the opportunity.

My sister, a bit bourgeois, was a little less excited, imagining a grey cafeteria filled with homeless souls and steam tables. Instead we found ourselves in a lovely ethnic restaurant, lined with long tables with, if not homeless, family-less people taking advantage of the chance to not have to cook. After some fumbling, our little group was seated next to a couple who were well ahead of us in the free wine department. We exchanged pleasantries as well as concerns over whether there really was food. After a few Pinots, we all began to find each other on the same page and my neighbor to the left, Sally, shared with me her shocking revelation - she had just noticed that the diner sitting to her left, was a woman she hadn't seen for 35 years, ever since their horrible car accident together. Apparently Clare, once a dear friend, had encouraged Sally to drive even though she didn't have a license. Clare was busy pouring over maps of mountain roads when a strong wind blew one of the maps across Sally's face. She immediately lost control of the car, and flipped over.

Clare, badly hurt, blamed Sally for the mishap before entering into a long, drawn-out lawsuit. They never spoke again. Now, 35 years later they are sitting next to each other at a random, free Thanksgiving dinner. How could this happen?

Sally was sure Clare hadn't recognized her and asked me, a total stranger, what she should do. I love redemption stories almost as much as drama and quickly suggested that she must seize the moment, though it was best to wait until we all had full plates of Thanksgiving fare. The time standing in the buffet line also gave me a chance to observe Clare. She looked as normal as anyone else at the dinner and so when we sat down with our food, I said "go!" Perhaps it was the generosity of the restaurant or the spirit of the holiday, but the two of them began talking and never stopped until dessert... 35 years of anger washed away with turkey and the trimmings. Synchronicity, yes... God? Who knows? I only hoped that my sister and I would do as well. To insure that possibility we ate like piglets for three days. Time may heal all wounds but good food speeds the process.