Yes, we'd love to know more about the 'God thing' in viral story of woman invited to eat with strangers

“A wonderful story beautifully told” is how ESPN’s Mike Greenberg described a recent CBS News report on an elderly widow invited to eat with strangers.

“It will restore your faith in humanity,” a Syracuse, N.Y., television news anchor said of the piece.

On both counts, I’d cheerfully agree.

But — and you knew a “but” was coming, right? — I’d suggest this otherwise inspiring tale is haunted by a holy ghost. (In case you’re new to GetReligion, here’s an explanation of what I mean by “holy ghost.”)

Before I embark on ghostbusting duties, however, here’s the compelling opening of the report by CBS’ “On the Road with Steve Hartman,” explaining how the woman came to eat dinner with three strangers:

For barbecue lovers, Brad's Bar-B-Que in Oxford, Alabama, is heaven on Earth. But 80-year-old Eleanor Baker said her visit here earlier this month was especially divine.

"I think it was a God thing. I think God sent me there," she said. 

Eleanor is a widow and lives with her dog. While she has a big family, they mostly live out of town, so she was alone the night she went to the restaurant. 

Security footage shows her entering, and at about that same time, three young men arrived.

"We were all sitting there talking," said Jamario Howard, who noticed Eleanor, describing her as "older woman, sitting by herself."

Jamario said hates seeing people eat alone. "And I seen that," he said.

When most of us see someone eating alone we feel that way, but our sympathy never solves anything. And Jamario really wanted to fix this, so he got up from his table and sat at hers.

"He just came up and he said, 'I saw you sitting over here alone.'  And he said, 'Do you mind having some company?''"

Regular readers probably had no trouble spotting the ghost.

I mean, the woman’s doozy of a quote, referring to the Almighty, is difficult to miss right there in the second paragraph:

"I think it was a God thing. I think God sent me there," she said.

Here’s my question: Is anybody else curious about the woman’s faith?

And another question: Does anybody else think a follow-up question or two along those lines would have made the story better?

The feel-good story ends this way:

They have all vowed to make room for one another.

And certainly, if Eleanor's right that God played any role in this, it may be to remind us of the joy that awaits just outside the bubbles we live in.

"I used to say when I was younger, and I still say today, I want to change the world somehow," said Jamario. "And I don't know how. I'm not rich. I'm not famous. And I'm not very smart either, so I can't be president."

"But we can show the world it's alright to be kind," he said. "And then, before long, maybe the world will be a much better place."

Hey, as long as I’m asking questions: Is Jamario a person of faith? Might that faith reflect on his view of the world?

Perhaps I’m seeing ghosts where none exist. But I can’t help but think something is missing here — something related to heart and soul.

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