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Pay It Forward

Photo by: Shutterstock

A friend of mine recently told me about a date she went on, and how she was surprised at the disrespectful way that her date treated their server.

This hit a nerve with me. You see, I put myself through graduate school by being a server. I’d wake up first thing every morning, go to class all day, get home, change clothes, work until 11 or so at night, go home from work, study until one or two in the morning, sleep, wake back up and do it all over again.

Needless to say, I was exhausted, but proud, to complete my education. You can understand then how it made me CRAZY when I had to deal with “that man” or “that woman” who treated me like I was “just a waitress.” Regardless of whether I was putting myself through school or not, there was something about an arrogant person who assumed they were better than the "working class.”

One of the worst experiences that I ever had to deal with was a high roller who laid into me because his rice pilaf wasn’t steaming. He literally wanted STEAM to come off of his food! The tables in my section stared in disbelief as he yelled and then grabbed my right hand, actually sticking it into the rice, while screaming, “Does THIS feel HOT TO YOU?!” The manager rushed over to pacify the man by giving him (of course) a free meal to soothe his anger – I never forgot him.

On the TOTAL flip of that, one busy Saturday, two little old women came in for lunch and ordered coffee and dessert…nothing else. I knew that I would get a small tip, if any, but they were so much fun and so cute that it didn’t matter. They stayed for a loooong time, which meant that the table didn’t turn over, missing more groups of the Saturday crowd and therefore more tips. The two women were so great, though, that I didn’t care though. They were just wonderful people.

When it was time for them to leave, they stood and gave me a hug. I cleared their coffee cups, and picked up a black folder along with their check. Walking to the back, I opened the folder and there was over 100 dollars inside. I panicked, realizing that they were elderly and had mistaken the bills, so I shot through the restaurant and out to the parking lot to catch them.

Handing the folder full of money to them, they gave each other a twinkling smile, and said, “She really WAS the one.”

Evidently, the women had been friends since they were young girls, and even waited tables together in their early 20’s. Someone left a big tip for one of them, saying that they had to do the same some day – pay it forward.

The women said that they always remembered that customer, and looked for a waitress to give it to, but it never felt right until that day. They told me that it was now my job to find a server who was a hard worker and could really use the help, when I could afford to give it to them.

To this day, my husband and I give each other a secret grin when we are at a restaurant, waiting to see if it’s “the one,” but we haven’t found them yet. It will be fun when we do!

All in all, I try to think of our kids when I write this blog. I want to leave them with not only memories of their childhood, but also of lessons learned.

With that being said, they can take this as an example on how to act towards people. Kindness – pay it forward.

Bea lives in North Carolina with her husband Adam and children Christian, Ethan, Preston, and Lauren Elizabeth. Read more on her blog, Peanut Butter Hair.

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