Driving to meet my fellow offshoreonly.com columnist and speedonthewater.com co-publisher Jason Johnson for a mountain bike ride near his home last Friday afternoon—trust me, we stayed way more than six feet apart because my legs were shot—I called Anthony Scioli of Buffalo, N.Y. Many of you likely know of Scioli as the guy behind Elite Poker Runs, LLC.
Those of you lucky enough to know him personally also know he runs his family’s restaurant business, in particular a place called My Tomato Pie, which offers everything from Buffalo-style pizza to—go figure—fried green tomatoes.
And as all of you surely know, the social distancing mandates in place around the country in response to COVID-19 have decimated the restaurant industry. Take-out, curbside-service and delivery have become the new normal with dining rooms closed and are likely to stay that way for some time.
But there is nothing normal about any of it .That’s just an expression people use to be brave and move forward in the face catastrophes.
Working late a few nights back, Scioli, who has no plans at this time to cancel any of his Elite Poker Runs events, got a call from his longtime friend Jeff Morgan of Syracuse. If that name sounds familiar, it also should. Morgan was one of the original founders of the 1,000 Islands Charity Poker Run and he owned one of the prettiest 42 Fountain Lighting sportboats—appropriately dubbed Captain Morgan—ever created.
“Jeff told me, ‘Hey, if you’re willing to drive 45 minutes halfway between Buffalo and Syracuse I want to order 20 pizzas,’” said Scioli. “When I asked him why, he said ‘I know times are hard right now and I want to help you out.’ I’ll deliver them to my friends who also are in need right now. Everybody loves pizza, right?’”
“It was late and I had to get home to my family, so I couldn’t do it,” he continued. “But that’s just the kind of big-hearted guy Jeff Morgan is. He was ready to drive halfway to Buffalo from Syracuse, buy 20 pizzas from me and deliver them to his friends, just because he wanted to help out.”
I ended the call, vowing to stay in better touch as Scioli and I have become good friends since I first met him six years ago, with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes.
In times like these, no gesture, kindness or expression of compassion is too small. And so often the smaller gestures are the ones that really take your breath away, restore your faith in humanity and inspire more of the same.
No amount of pizza will resolve the novel coronavirus pandemic. But as a random act of kindness, it’s one hell of a great way to start.
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