Every morning I make an iced tea run to McDonalds.  My tea of choice used to be from Dunkin’ Donuts, however, the nearest Dunkin’ is 10 minutes away and there’s too much temptation.  McDonald’s is two minutes away.  

I could very easily make my own jug of tea and save myself a few dollars and time, but I like the ritual of connecting to the outside world in the morning.  I’ve come to know the names of the two people I have the most contact with there.  Brenda is the woman who works the cash station (Window 1), wears brightly colored glasses, calls me babe, and thanks me for my ‘round up’ donation for the Ronald McDonald House.  

Marietta is the young Hispanic woman who would hand me my iced tea with lemon (Window 2) and calls me Mama in her beautiful accent.  She always apologizes when they are out of fresh lemons. “Sorry, no lemons today, Mama,” she says, as she hands me my drink.

For the past couple of weeks, I noticed that Marietta wasn’t at her post. I thought she was on vacation or started working a different shift.   This morning there was a box with Marietta’s picture on it at Window 1. Hand scribbled was, “Please donate for the funeral expenses of the family.”  

While paying for my drink I asked, “Who died?”  

“Marietta,” came the reply.

“Oh, wow – how shocking,” was all I could manage as I pulled money out of my wallet and stuffed it in the box. 

I’ve come to know Brenda and Marietta as part of my new community here in Charlotte. My morning tea run and my life won’t ever be the same.