I was recently away for a long-overdue weekend of rest and relaxation. The plan, if there was one, was to treat myself. As such, I had made an online reservation for Sunday brunch at what appeared to be an upscale restaurant. Upon arriving there, the lights were off, the restaurant was unoccupied, and the doors locked. Whether this was because it was off-season, or because of the pandemic, I don’t know. What I did know was that I needed to find another place for sustenance.

A quick Google search revealed a handful of places nearby. The top of that list was Rhea’s Kitchen. We chose to give it a try. The moment we walked in we knew it was where we were meant to be. We received a warm welcome from the owner who seated us near the fireplace in the cozy dining room.

It turned out that the owners are from Thessaloniki, Greece. And, while they’ve had this restaurant for 3 decades, they are closing in a month and returning to Greece. And, they had reduced their hours to only serving breakfast and weren’t open on Mondays. So, had the original restaurant been opened, I never would have met Eleni.

While the food was excellent, it was the conversation that was extraordinary. Who would have imagined that in this tiny town I would have run into someone with whom I had so much in common? We talked about Greece and family and the restaurant business. At one point in the conversation, she said it felt like we’d known each other forever, like we were family. I felt the same way.

I could have gotten frustrated that my plans had been disrupted. I could have let that annoyance permeate the morning, ruining brunch and, perhaps, the remainder of the day. How often do we find ourselves railing against an unexpected change in plans, digging in our heels against any deviation? And, in doing so, completely missing the opportunity that may be unfolding before us.

The odds of having gone to this restaurant, to meet this woman, to talk about our shared heritage were infinitesimally small. And yet the beauty of it, of nourishing not only my body but my heart, was enormous — very likely exceeding the experience I would have had at my intended destination. I’ve since returned home and this remains one of the highlights from my trip. My goal to rest and relax, to treat myself, was made all the better for having embraced an unexpected change of plans.