Editorials

Customers give a four-wheeled Christmas tip

Brueggars Bagels on Strickland Road in North Raleigh shift supervisor Shirley Ratliff, surrounded by friends and customers, reacts when she gets her first look at her Christmas present Monday afternoon, December 22, 2014 - a 1992 Buick LeSabre automobile (and a full tank of gas) outside the restaurant as her Christmas gift from long time customers and friends. Ratliff, 47, of Raleigh, had been using buses to get around to her job for the past eight years. About 20 customers got together to buy the $1500 Buick, cleaned up and ready to run, with any donations over the $1500 to be given to Ratliff as well as a thank you for excellent service and friendship over the years.
Brueggars Bagels on Strickland Road in North Raleigh shift supervisor Shirley Ratliff, surrounded by friends and customers, reacts when she gets her first look at her Christmas present Monday afternoon, December 22, 2014 - a 1992 Buick LeSabre automobile (and a full tank of gas) outside the restaurant as her Christmas gift from long time customers and friends. Ratliff, 47, of Raleigh, had been using buses to get around to her job for the past eight years. About 20 customers got together to buy the $1500 Buick, cleaned up and ready to run, with any donations over the $1500 to be given to Ratliff as well as a thank you for excellent service and friendship over the years. hlynch@newsobserver.com

Now here’s a story that captures the spirit of Christmas. Such a story is particularly needed right about now, on Christmas Eve, when the wallet’s thin and the nerves are frayed. Weariness leads to the cynicism overheard from a grandmother who had just finished up for the granddaughter at one of those big box stores: “Well, the only one she hasn’t got is Shopaholic Barbie, but they’ll probably come out with one.”

So back, quickly, to that Christmas story.

Shirley Ratliff takes three buses to get to and from work at Bruegger’s Bagels on Strickland Road in North Raleigh. She opens every day at 5 a.m. She works hard, and it’s not easy. She deals with diabetes, which put her in the hospital at Thanksgiving, and she’s had a bout with cervical cancer. It seems she has had more challenges than a woman of 47 should have had, but she keeps on going. She knows her customers by name and treats them like old friends.

This week, they turned the tables. Some of her favorite customers showed Shirley Ratliff she’s an old friend, too. They gave her a car, with the guidance of customer David Burton, a dentist who bought Ratliff a 1992 Buick LeSabre for $1,500 and then got contributions from other customers. Now she’ll get a license and won’t have to ride all those buses.

“This is the best Christmas present ever,” Ratliff said to the customers who gathered this week to present her with the car. “All my friends are here, and I see that now. I knew it before, but now I really know.”

Merry Christmas.

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