“Miss? Can we get refills over here?”
I looked over to see a table of seven all with empty cups. I sighed. As I looked towards the door, I knew this was only the beginning of a crazy night. The Griz had just lost, so everyone looked either depressed or on the brink of the most intense hangover of their lives. I was getting stressed out but reminded myself that being busy was way better than being sent home early, because I was there to make money.
Towards the end of the night, as the flow of people started to slow down, I waited on a table of five, a woman with four children. The kids were pretty rowdy: drinking Pepsi quickly, coloring the provided pictures, but nothing unusual for their age range. Towards the end of their meal, I went over and dropped off their check; I told them that I would be their cashier whenever they were ready, but no rush.
When I went to run the woman’s card, it was declined several times. I went over to her and asked if she had any other form of payment. Cash? Check? She simply stated that she had nothing else. I nodded. I thought for a couple moments. I wasn’t sure what do to.
“You know what…I’ll cover this, okay?” It wasn’t something that I necessarily wanted to do. I had busted my ass all night for the forty five dollars I was just handing to her. But for some reason I felt like I had some sort of duty to human kind. Which sounds silly; I owed this woman nothing. Yet, I imagined being in her place, being stressed out thinking that I had more money on a card than was actually there, and I just took a chance.
“I will be back tomorrow to repay you. I promise. Thank you so much.” I looked at her and for some reason I just believed her. Most of the time, I have this pretty naïve way of looking at the world. I believe that if you set high standards for people, if you expect them to be honest and hold them to those standards, they’ll want to live up to them. Now, it doesn’t always work that way, but I think you’d be surprised.
I watched the woman leave with her children. I wondered if I would see her again. Something told me that I would and I went back to work. My remaining table, a woman and what I assumed was her teenage daughter, were finishing up their dinners. I ran the woman’s card and dropped off the receipt slips with a pen for a signature. I thanked the two and asked if there was anything else I could get them. They smiled and said no. They had been extremely appreciative the whole meal, which was so nice after a long night of chaos.
A few minutes later I saw them making their way towards the door. “Have a great night you two!” I called after them. They were my last table. I could finally start getting ready to go home; I refilled syrup containers like I do every shift. I came back out on the floor to pick up the receipt and this is what I found:
This is to pay for that woman’s meal. I’d like to think that she will come back, if so, let this be your reward for a leap of faith. Keep up the fantastic work! God bless and pay it forward.
I looked at the receipt. The woman had left a fifty-six dollar tip to cover the woman’s meal. My eyes started filling with tears. I couldn’t stop them; I was so completely touched by what this woman had done. My manager asked me if I was okay. He already knew the situation with the woman unable to pay her bill, so I showed him the note. Though he did not have the same physical reaction, he smiled and told me how awesome it was that someone would do that.
There are times when I think there is no hope for us, when I think that we’re all selfish, self-satisfying assholes who don’t give a damn about anyone, except when it can somehow benefit us. Then, there are moments like this that restore some faith; they make me believe that a change can be made. Yeah, it won’t happen all at once. But if everyone “pays it forward,” think about how much better our world would be. One of my favorite songs, a song by Old Crow Medicine Show, has a line that says “we’re all in this together,” which I think sums up our existence pretty accurately. We can accomplish so much if we work together. Sometimes it sounds impossible, but you’d be surprised how far a random act of kindness can go.
So, did she return? For the record, she came in today while I was working my shift and paid her check. She also gave me a big hug. See? People can surprise you.