My husband asked me to write this experience down. He won me over on the idea when he mentioned that it’s just the type of story my mom would retell and he wants to make sure our kids have the same stories to reminisce about.
Last week, we celebrated my 3rd daughter turning 7. For a few weeks leading up to her special day, she repeatedly asked to go to Red Lobster so she could get dessert. I have no idea why this was her particular request but, alas, it was. Since my husband was in class all day on her birthday, I was flying solo for the evening. What better plan than to take 4 kids out to a restaurant for dessert?!
We arrived around 6:00 and my children were excited, to say the least. They were getting dessert BEFORE dinner and it was a birthday celebration! We were barely in the front door before a sibling made sure someone was told of our celebratory agenda. The hostess showed us to our table, a corner booth in a sectioned off room (I later found out it’s called the ‘red room’ by the restaurant staff). Since it was the middle of the week, there were only a few occupied tables and I’m pretty sure all of them stared at us as we moved into our booth. The kids were so excited, loud and animated. I called for a hause-huddle in order to get everyone centered and calmed down.
There was one lady, sitting with a younger female (I assumed a daughter) that really seemed to be keenly aware of my crew coming into the red room. I felt judged and like we were simply annoying her. Of course, we were seated right next to her and my mom- guilt was in overdrive just knowing this woman was only going to become more and more irritated by our mere presence. The kids calmed and they each were able to order a sundae off the kids menu. The birthday girl ordered strawberry cheesecake; she highly recommends it if you’re out to dinner.
The kids and I had a lovely time sharing our ‘highs’ of the day- those moments that stood out as happy or good or encouraging; each taking a turn to share their own moments. Time quickly escaped us, dessert was finished and we were sitting there waiting. Our waiter, although wonderful and so helpful in our celebrating by having his co-workers sing to my birthday girl, seemed to be taking forever to bring the check. Once again, my kids were getting antsy and I was at a loss. I pulled out my wallet and even my card to pay but couldn’t seem to get him to bring the check.
To my surprise, the waiter finally came to the table but had no check in his hand. Instead his surprised us by informing us our tab had been taking care of by the family at the table next to us…. the very table that I was sure I was being judged from; that we were only annoying more with every passing second. I was blown away. Humbled. As we left, each of us repeatedly thanked them for the generosity. My birthday girl quickly noted that THIS was definitely her high for the day. I agreed and began ushering my kids to the car.
It wasn’t until several hours later, well after the kids were in bed, that I realized in the shock of my bill being paid I didn’t leave a tip for our waiter. I. Felt. Horrible. Here I had just been gifted with this beautiful display of grace and blessing but hadn’t passed that gift along. I went to Facebook with my angst. A friend who has wait-staff experience encouraged me to simply call and let them know it wasn’t a reflection of the service received. Easy.
The next day, I waited until noon to call and spoke with the manager on duty. After explaining the previous nights events, I asked if I could mail a tip or something. To my extreme surprise, the manager thanked me for calling and told me he would take my suggested amount out of the petty cash drawer and tip my waiter for me. With a very friendly encouragement to feel free to repay the petty cash next time we’re in for dinner he again thanked me for calling and wished my daughter a very happy birthday.
I shared this story on Facebook and a friend/neighbor commented on how the world had already come full circle. Just two days prior, I headed over to her house with a get well basket. Her family of five suffered the flu x 3 and the worst stomach bug ever x 4, over the course of 2 weeks! She was ragged and worn out. I packed up some chicken noodle soup, crackers and disinfectant wipes with a card wishing them a full recovery from all their illnesses. It was a simple neighborly act and I really didn’t give much though to it. She later told me that it meant the world to her.
Isn’t that how it usually goes? Something so small and insignificant to us can be huge and mean the world to someone else? I know that’s how my feeble bill being paid felt and then again when the manager covered my tip. How wonderful it is to be a part of a blessing and not fully realize how the blessing was returned, ten-fold!