She wasn't that way. She had on an apron and a cap—mussing the hair. She was serving dinners and desserts, obviously not for the first time, and at the same pace whether a camera was rolling or not. She hadn't spent all her time prancing at pageants. I didn't know until she told me that she had waited tables for two years in a mid-scale Italian restaurant.
Stam mentioned that she had come from an appearance in New Orleans where she was just supposed to stand around. She said she didn't like that. She wanted to work. She grew up in a Christian home (her mom teaches fifth grade at a Lutheran school) and from what I read has faith of her own, so I asked her what serving at the Mission meant to her as a Christian.
She momentarily had the deer-in-the-headlights look—was a journalist out to get her?—but then forthrightly said she saw the image of God in these homeless folks.
Since she sees it, maybe they'll see it too. She said the people at this Thanksgiving dinner often showed more gratitude than the patrons in her Italian restaurant. She's right: Even I, blundering around, got thank you's. Maybe it's week-four manners. Maybe it's something more.
I was wrong to jeer at shelter Thanksgiving dinners and Miss Americas. As Alyosha says in The Brothers Karamazov, "If only one good memory remains with us in our hearts, that alone may serve some day for our salvation."
Miss America 2009 was not walking on air. She wasn't on a Via Dolorosa either—this has been a great year in her young life. But by showing up she just may have helped someone who's been on the road too long.