July 13, 2016
I stopped at Big Lots to grab breath mints for the restaurant and a store employee stopped me amidst my shopping trip to randomly ask, “Are cookies or cakes better for you?” Before I could conjure up the words to ask why, she added, “I’m a diabetic.” OK, now why on earth would I even suggest anything processed, sugary, or sweet after hearing that; despite myself being a customer in her store? “My boss said I could pick one out for my birthday today.” My heart sank… I told her it was also my father’s birthday and showed her silly snapchat photos I took with him and Ethan at midnight. I grabbed a $20 gift card to the restaurant from my backpack and invited her down the street after her shift for a few goodies prepared by the chefs. I learned that she takes the city bus and was oblivious to anything in the area other than her workplace (I’m guilty of that too!) So I wrote my phone number on the back of the gift card and asked her to call me after work if she decides the venture out. She was beyond thrilled and hid my card in her pocket, “My shift is over around 5!! I’ll find my way there!!” A little skeptical since learning in my retail career about making connections with customers (which a lot of times lead to conversations beyond the point of sale lol), I reserved a table for her anyways. I got a call close to 6pm and it was an excited lady, “I’m on my way!!”
I never heard anything after as I was catching up on paperwork, so I stepped out into the dining room only to see Ms. Angela happily settled in all by herself at the table I had set aside for her. She had already ordered the simplest menu item from my server – ready to celebrate her 49th birthday with the $20 gift card…all by herself, and all smiles. I walked over and couldn’t even reintroduce myself or welcome her in… she had jumped up out of her seat to hug me. My entire staff read her emotions and without question helped execute an unforgettable dinner together. I respectfully asked to join as a guest to her table, thankfully she agreed (hehe), sat down with a bottle of red wine to share, food enough to feed a family, but best part of the dinner was able to hear and be inspired by her story. That’s how my Dad taught me growing up, to never judge or have prejudice, yet listen and learn about one another. Everyone felt Ms. Angela’s radiant energy that evening, from my serving staff to guests stopping by the table to wish her a Happy Birthday after realizing the beautiful moment from across the dining room. She embraced every second, thanking the entire team for every meticulous detail every chance she could, and thanking God with tears building up as she spoke to her daughter from Chicago on the phone. I couldn’t have been more proud of my team, and their rebuttal was actually wanting to thank Ms. Angela for inspiring happiness for all the little things in life.. They even payed for an Uber ride home instead of letting her take the bus!
It was God’s gift to have my family celebrate my Dad’s birthday at the restaurant this very same night. It’s been hard to be present at family dinners or even special occasion and holidays ever since I started my career in the hospitality industry. You have to commit in serving guests, endure long unrecognized hours, all while creating memorable experiences despite the unappreciated efforts. After seeing my family eat and enjoy themselves before my very eyes, it took all of me to not cry for all the guilt I felt for not being around as often like I should.
I was so excited to introduce my Dad to Ms. Angela, but she hugged him before I knew it, “You should be proud of your daughter, I just met her today and it was God’s blessing that I was even acknowledged by a complete stranger and treated like a queen without a crown on my birthday. I’m all alone here. I wish my kids were closer. She made me remember that I didn’t need to be surrounded to feel loved, I felt loved by complete strangers today.”
Today also helped reissure it was my best decision to move back to Houston two years ago. I entered my twenties lost in a new world trying to prove my independence, with countless failures but I picked myself up each time craving that euphoric feeling of self worth. I remember walking across the stage to grab my art degree, smiling as I envisioned my quirky family cheering for me from across the stadium. Good things never last forever, even if it looked perfect on the outside. My mom was unable to travel far and I was always imagining my family’s presence to keep me from depression and missing home so much. I realized every accomplishment, dream, and aspiration wouldn’t amount to anything if I couldn’t share my happiness with my family and true friends. I always had relentless love and support from them and am forever grateful. I only wish to pay it forward for the rest of my life to serve others. Happy Birthday Dad, to the man who has everything. Every random act of kindness is dedicated to you. I just want to make you proud. I wanted to blog this moment so I could look back, inspire, and thank God for sending me a complete stranger to remind me what life’s all about.
Thanks for reading ❤ -Ter