This past weekend I had one of the most amazing father-son moments I’ve had with my boys and I felt it was worth sharing.
Earlier this month I presented the Pay It Forward message at our annual CAREGiver Gala and its message was put in play for my boys to not only see, but to soak up like the little sponges they are…
After a long day of playing in the woods, my boys and I were set up nicely for a “Guys Night Out” of dinner and ice cream. They got to choose the location as long as they agreed on the place. So of course it was a Wild Wings kind of night.
It’s been a long time since I had been to this place, especially on a busy Saturday night at 7:30 pm. It was packed! After being seated, it took my kids literally 1.6 seconds to start asking for quarters so they could play the basketball shot game. They each took their money and rushed over since the machine was unoccupied. Sadly, as soon as the first quarter dropped in the machine a group of about 5 kids came rushing over and essentially pushed my little buddy to the side and started playing the game that he paid for. My kids were stunned. They knew this was wrong and they looked straight at me as if to say, “What do we do?”
I just gave them my normal look right back that says, “I’m not going to fix this for you.” Now, to be clear, I was the one who just had his 4 quarters essentially stolen, so part of me wanted to see my oldest son introduce the biggest kid in the group to what it felt like “after” you have been planted on the ground from a double leg take down, but I digress…..
My boys did the right thing. They simply just came back to the table and said they would hang back until the kids’ parents came and stopped them. Sadly, that never happened. Their parents never once came out of the bar area of the restaurant to stop them from doing this to no less than four other kids.
Yikes, I completely got off track there! Guess I’m still upset about my dollar!
There was a group of about 14 people who appeared to be late teens to early 20-something’s sitting at the table next to us. They had pushed three tables together to accommodate all of them. They were clearly at the end of the meal and did a little birthday chant for the birthday girl.
NOTE: I know it’s about to sound like I was eave’s dropping, but when I say this group was loud, THEY WERE LOUD!
The waitress, who was visibly shaken, came and asked if they were ready for their checks. They nodded, and the birthday girl instructed her to break the check up by person. Ouch! You can imagine this was going to take some time to accomplish, but it only took about two minutes for about six of the male members of the group to get up and congregate in a huddle right on the other side of our table.
They went back and forth over who was going to spot each other until they ultimately came to the conclusion that none of them had any money. That’s right, they went through the entire process of deciding to go out to eat, getting there, ordering, eating and complaining before anyone thought about how it was going to be paid for. Then it was solved…. They actually verbally acknowledged to themselves that they were just going to leave. They said it in a different way, but that’s what it meant. (I had to explain that to the boys).
Again, neither I nor my boys (who were now just as interested in this as me) were trying to eavesdrop. These guys were nearly standing inside our personal space having this discussion. It was clear two other tables were just as aware as we were, based on the frowns and head-shaking they were doing.
Once this group of upstanding young men (sarcasm) had walked out, the rest of the group made it clear that those unpaid checks were not their problem. In fact, it was then time to discuss what appeared on their bill that they weren’t going to pay for since it “wasn’t any good”…
Finally, they all went to the front of the restaurant and had an exchange with a manager and left. I have no idea if a single dollar transferred between the restaurant and this table; but I can assure you by the look on the face of this waitress which party received nothing. My heart broke for her. Not only did she have three of her tables taken up on what is the busiest night of the week (and likely most important to her paycheck), she had to fulfill her job requirements of cleaning up the mess and putting these tables back together. Talk about pouring salt on a wound…
Now at that moment, my kids didn’t really understand what was going on, just that something was wrong. I couldn’t stop watching this waitress fight back the tears and struggle to maintain her composure. I also couldn’t stop looking at my boys as they too were watching her. You could see in their faces that they felt terrible for her and didn’t even know why….
Our check came and I finished paying for our meal. Just then, I saw the only restaurant employee wearing a red shirt, and I told the boys to sit tight for a second. I went up and asked if he was the manager and he said no, but that he would have her come to my table. I sat back down and I thought my son Grant was going to have a stroke because he is very much opposed to confrontation. Actually, I was a little nervous too. I’m 35 years old and I have never once asked to speak with the manager at a restaurant in my life….
The manager came over and I asked her to sit with us for a second and I told her what I thought just happened and asked if she would find out for me if my assumptions were accurate. I think she was a little surprised I wasn’t asking about our experience, but rather someone else… She walked over to the register area where the waitress was standing and I don’t think she had five full words out of her mouth before the waitress broke down and started crying. I knew it.
I didn’t want this to be a scene or to draw more attention to it than there had already been, so I just said, “boys, come with me”…. We walked over to the two ladies and I just told the waitress that we knew what happened and we didn’t want her to let that take down her night. I told her that I was truly impressed with the way she handled it and I want her to be rewarded for the effort she put forward. So I gave her what I figured would have amounted to the tip she should have earned for a table that size.
She immediately tried to decline, but the manager stopped her and said to accept the gesture. We all hugged it out and my boys and I headed out the door.
This lead to the best ice cream session I’ve ever had. The little ice cream place is only a few doors down in the shopping center and my kids didn’t say a word the entire way there. We walked in, and they both got their cups but rather than the usual overfill and abundance of toppings, they both served themselves a very modest portion and we went back out the door. From there, their minds went to full gear. They had 100 questions over the next hour about what had taken place at the restaurant. Why would people do that? Don’t they know that is how the waitress gets paid? Why would someone go to a restaurant if they don’t have money? Why did those parents let their kids do that to all of the other kids?
As soon as we got home they both went running into the house to tell their mom all about what happened. It was so rewarding to know that this moment didn’t get away from me. I couldn’t help but think about the video that I showed everyone at our Gala and how this is EXACTLY what the video called for. Only this time I not only had the chance to Pay It Forward, but I got to seize on the opportunity to teach my kids how to take in what is right and wrong. I got to show them how uplifting it can be to give someone the dignity of noticing.
This is going to be a “Boys Night Out” that I’ll never forget. If you are a parent of young kids out there, be ready to take advantage of opportunities like this to teach the youngest generation what it means to be right in the sense of community. You may be surprised at just how many chances you have in today’s culture to do just that….