There was a time when Waffle House did not accept debit cards. There was also a time when neither Mandy nor I carried much (if any) cash with us. If we needed cash we would stop at an ATM and take out only what we needed and we would use our debit card for everything else. These two facts collided on Easter Sunday in 2000 and resulted in me being on the receiving end of a random act of kindness.
Mandy and I had been married less than a year and decided not to visit family for Easter. We were living in a fairly small apartment and did not feel like cooking so we decided to go to Waffle House for lunch–on Easter Sunday (we both agreed). The Waffle House in Brentwood must be the nicest, cleanest Waffle House in the country and there always seems to be a wait on Sunday mornings after people get out of church. We had already waited in line and been shown to our table when we realized that we only had about $9 between us in cash for our meal and tip for our server.
A few furious minutes of negotiating ensued as we both gave up something we had originally wanted and agreed on what we could share so that our total bill would be about $8 with $1 left over for a tip. We then proceeded to order our food an enjoyed our meal and, more importantly, our time together.
After finishing our meal we asked our waitress for our check. She proceeded to tell us that a regular customer of this particular Waffle House had paid our bill for us and that we did not owe anything. We were shocked. Blown away. Who does that? Why would a stranger do that for us? My best guess is that we were seen as a young couple (22 and 23), eating at a Waffle House on Easter Sunday, that had little money given that we were attempting to eat on $8. We must have been a pretty pitiful sight to behold.
The individual that paid our check did not know that we had money in the bank to pay for the meal, just not cash in our pockets.
That is not the point, however.
The point is that a total stranger felt compassion in their heart and decided to help someone out that had less than they did (or at least appeared that way). We were the recipients of a random act of kindness and the story of our first Easter Sunday together at Waffle House has become one of our favorites to retell. I was even presented with an opportunity to play the role of the generous stranger over a decade later when I saw a young couple in the same Waffle House trying to decide what to order because they did not have much money to spend.
I felt privileged to be able to be able to quietly pay their check and leave without ever being noticed.
It is all to easy to get caught up in the big efforts that we want to contribute to. The kind of efforts that take a great deal of time, energy and resources to complete. These efforts are worthy and should always be a part of our service to others. Just do not let them be the only service that you render. Keep your eyes open for those times when you can display a random act of kindness to someone else that may need just a little bit of help. Do not do it to be seen or recognized. Simply do it because it is the right thing to do. The good thing to do. The kind thing to do.
I promise that you will feel plenty good about your actions when it is all over, even if you are the only one that ever knows what just took place.