A number of luncheon events I speak at often serve chicken. You can't go wrong with chicken, although some chicken dishes are drier than others. It doesn't matter though. It is not the food that makes the event, it is the people.
I am speaking to a group of women who have gathered to raise money for women in their community. The head table is buzzing because a member of the group who is to be recognized as Woman of the Year has not yet arrived.
The woman they are waiting for is 90.
Doris has refused to come to the event with either of her daughters because she prefers to drive herself.
"Who knows, maybe she stopped off at Walmart on her way for a bag of cat food," one of her daughters says.
"Maybe she's working on the gallery opening tonight," someone offers.
Time passes, the room fills, the emcee makes some announcements and Doris still had not arrived.
"Does she have a cellphone?" someone asks.
"Yes, but she's not answering."
The festive atmosphere grows mute. Anxious eyes at our table fix on the door.
"Maybe she's having trouble finding parking," someone says.
More quiet. More waiting. And then someone spots her and a collect sigh of relief sounds as Doris breezes through the door.
She takes her seat, others look at her expectantly and she says, "My friend Joe died Wednesday." A gasp circles the table as the others clearly have not heard about the death.
"I got a call Wednesday night," she says. "So I made some chicken salad last night, took it over the house this morning and sat awhile."
Doris hadn't stopped at Walmart or dropped in on the gallery, she has heard of a death in the community, whipped up some comfort food and has been sitting with the grieving.
This powerhouse of a little lady is eating her lunch when her name is announced as Woman of the Year. Her eyes grow big, her spoon falls from her hand and she shakes her head.
She accepts her award without much to say. The emcee tells her story for her. Doris Myers grew up poor. The first art she created was with a burnt match on a paper bag.
Doris went to college when not many girls did and earned a business degree. She wanted an art degree, but the college didn't offer one. So she went to a second college and earned an art degree. She taught art at the high school, founded the fine arts council in town and "brought culture to the county," as they called it.
When she retired from teaching, she painted the history of the town on a wall mural in the high school working on 15-foot scaffolding.
I've only known Doris five minutes, but my eyes are tearing up with the rest of them. Remarkable. Simply remarkable.
Hard work, a life well-lived, and giving to others along the way is that quiet recipe for greatness so often overlooked.
We are having quiche at this luncheon. If they had wanted chicken salad for 150, I imagine they could have asked Doris and she gladly would have brought it.