The rumors had been swirling for months but it still came as a
shock when the hospital board announced that our small community
hospital would be closing on July 1st.
The hospital had served this working class poor neighborhood of
Philadelphia for nearly 100 years but it would soon become another
casualty of the health care crisis.
The day after the announcement co-workers walked around in a
stunned state of disbelief. And if impending unemployment wasn't
stressful enough, those looking for comfort in the form of their
morning soft pretzel found out that pretzels had been eliminated from
the cafeteria menu the same day the hospital announced its closure.
For those of you outside the Philadelphia area, let me explain...
Soft pretzels are the lifeblood of this city. They are sold in
schools, sports arenas, delicatessens and at hundreds of street
vendors across town. They are a snack, a meal and a revered
tradition. So losing access to soft pretzels is no small matter.
A week later, I decided to cheer up my co-workers by picking up
some soft pretzels at a local store in Havertown called Pretzel Boys.
I arrived just as it opened so I was the only customer. The
tantalizing smells of warm dough, yeast and salt engulfed me. Rows
and rows of freshly baked brown-crusted pretzels were packed into
cardboard boxes, ready for the day. These are the sights and smells
of nirvana for any Philadelphian.
A sign posted on the cash register read, "Ten dollar minimum for
credit cards." Just then it dawned on me that I only had $5 cash in
my wallet. So much for planning ahead!
I work inside a large office at the hospital and knew I'd need
more than the half dozen pretzels my five dollars would buy. But did
I really need 25 pretzels -- the only amount of pretzels I could get
for $10. A man's voice interrupted my thoughts.
"Can I help you?"
Distracted and embarrassed by my hesitation, words tumbled out of
my mouth, "Ah, yes. I only have $5 but I have a debit card. I'm not
sure how many pretzels I need."
The man nodded like what I just said made sense and so I
continued to babble.
"You see, I work at a hospital and it's closing and they stopped
selling pretzels." As if this explained my previous rambling.
The man's smile disappeared. "What hospital?"
"Oh, um Northeastern Hospital."
The pretzel guy looked deeply shocked. "I used to sell medical
supplies and that was one of my hospitals. What a shame. They are
I started to respond but the pretzel guy held up his palm to
stop me. Then he turned around and grabbed a box of 25 pretzels and
slid them across the counter.
I was stunned by his generosity and started to reach for my
wallet, "Oh I can pay. Please let me..."
The pretzel guy pushed the box another six inches across the
counter and smiled. "Just tell them Joe Sullivan said to do
something nice for someone else."
And so that day everyone in medical records was treated to a
soft pretzel. Word spread fast as people came up to my desk asking,
"Is it really true? Did you bring in soft pretzels?" It was as if
I'd carried in a box of gold.
With each pretzel, I shared the story of Pretzel Boys
generosity. Without exception each employee was moved by Joe
Sullivan's words and kind deed. It mattered to them that a stranger
And with every bite of soft pretzel a little bit of healing took place.
Thank you Joe!
~ Teri Goggin-Roberts ~
<IndigoMuse63 @ aol.com>
Teri is a native Philadelphian who lives just outside the city with
her husband and children. She says, "I am blessed to continue to be
employed in another part of the hospital system. I dedicate this
story to my co-workers in the hopes that they all land on their feet."