When Sylvia found she had no money to pay for her children’s meals, a kind stranger inspired her to do something unexpected that led to something incredible.
Sylvia might have been poor, but almost nothing could shake her belief that she would overcome it and lead a prosperous life.
But one fateful day, that belief was challenged like never before.
“How am I supposed to survive this?”
Living paycheck to paycheck, Sylvia worked around the clock and raised two young children, 10-year-old Sasha and 8-year-old Nina. On any other day, Sylvia would have been in a good mood and would have gotten every errand of her busy day behind her.
She wouldn’t be wearing the best clothes, but a glimpse of her smile from across the street would put a smile on your face too. Her voice and walk suggested she was struggling to make ends meet.
That’s how she was raised by her grandmother. Sylvia always took her words to heart.
“Never worry about money. It’s always there and will come to you soon enough. Focus on doing good and doing it well.”
A day came, however, when these words no longer calmed Sylvia’s heart. She sat in the car and drove her kids to her favorite burger joint for an after-school snack.
This was a weekly ritual for the mother and children. The trio listened to the radio and sang along in their loud, happy voices. Sylvia set them riddles, to which the children always gave the funniest and smartest answers.
The singing and laughing went on until they reached the restaurant. But that day, the drive was boring and painfully slow.
Sascha and Nina were busy singing on the radio, but Sylvia was struggling with questions in her head.
‘How should I pay next month’s rent?’
‘Where should I get the money for Sascha’s piano lessons and Nina’s new uniform?’
The worries just wouldn’t stop. Sylvia didn’t notice when they reached the restaurant and had chosen a table.
“What do you want to eat mom? We’ll have the rotisserie chicken burger.”
Sylvia saw her beautiful daughters summon a waitress and place the order.
8-year-old Nina said: “And of course you can’t forget the curly fries. Our mom loves them.”
Sylvia didn’t have the heart to tell the children that she had been fired that day. The hospital where she worked had new management and half the staff was laid off. Unfortunately, Sylvia was one of the many low-level employees the hospital had fired.
She watched as the children savored every bite of food and made letters with the curly fries.
‘This is probably the last time you enjoy your favorite burger here,’ she thought.
A lot depended on Sylvia’s job. She’d even been told that she was about to be promoted to assistant human resources manager. But the whole world of possibilities collapsed in a single day. For the first time Sylvia didn’t know what to do.
When the waitress brought the bill, Sylvia reached into her wallet to pay. In that moment it became clear to her. She had no money to pay the bill. There was no cash in her wallet and the only card she had was a company card that had been deactivated that afternoon.
Sylvia’s nervousness worried the children. “Are you all right, mom?” Sasha asked.
Sylvia nodded and got up to go to the waitress and explain her situation. She wondered what the punishment would be like. She would be willing to face the consequences, but she didn’t want her children to know.
Just as she turned to get up, she heard someone shout, “Hey!”
“Your bill is already paid.” She looked in the direction of the voice and saw a man who nodded at her with a smile. He was eating at a table with two little boys. Sylvia was confused because she had never seen him before. But in the few seconds that their eyes met, Sylvia could sense that the man had been watching her and was making a friendly gesture.
She approached the man, who introduced himself as Matthew, the owner of a small repair shop in the neighborhood.
“You don’t have to thank me. It looked like you were having a bad day; I know how that can feel and that’s the least I can do.”
Sylvia and her children thanked Matthew and left the restaurant. As Sylvia drove, she suddenly remembered the true meaning of her grandmother’s lesson:
“You’re not always going to have a high balance in your account. Sometimes it can be the opposite. Sometimes you’re going to have trouble paying for your bread. On days like this, remember: pass it on to others and it will come back to you .”
“Repeat after me: If you pass it on to others, it comes back to you.” The man in the restaurant had passed it on, and that should bring him well-being. And now it was Sylvia’s turn to give something back.
Over the next few hours, this new clarity helped her see all of her problems and financial commitments in a new light. She made a few calls and happened to find an old friend who could give her a temp job.
She spoke to her landlord and said she could only pay half the rent next month and offered to do the laundry and dishes to make up the rest.
She did the math and came to the conclusion that she could pay for Nina’s uniform but not Sascha’s piano lessons. She sat down with Sasha and told her about the situation because she knew Sasha would understand.
Sasha didn’t mind adapting and practicing the piano with a friend for a month.
And finally, Sylvia opened the small box of cash and change she kept in the kitchen, took out 40 euros and put it in her purse. She didn’t have much left, but she knew exactly what she would do with that money.
If you get it, pass it on.
The next day she went to the restaurant and paid the money at the counter without ordering anything.
“That’s for the next person who needs to pay. Tell them their bill is paid.”
There was a deep sense of satisfaction and happiness in performing this simple act of kindness. She paid for others.
A week later, Sylvia again went to the restaurant with Sasha and Nina, and the staff greeted them in an unexpected way.
The moment Sylvia entered the restaurant, the waitresses and manager gathered around her and applauded her. Some of the customers whispered among themselves and agreed.
“What’s the matter, Mom?” Nina asked excitedly.”Was ist los, Mama?”, fragte Nina aufgeregt.
One of the waitresses replied, “You don’t know, but when you came here last week and paid for the next table, the customers noticed. They were so touched by it that they did the same. Every customer paid for in advance the next table.”
The waitress pointed to a board on the counter that read Number of friendly customers who paid in advance: 88
Sylvia was speechless. She couldn’t believe that something she had done had caused such a big movement.
Sasha and Nina had already run to their favorite table. After Sylvia placed her favorite order, the same waitress smiled and said, “Sure, I’ll bring it right away. And of course your bill is already paid.”
In the next few weeks, the restaurant became famous on the Internet. Customer videos and testimonials went viral. The eatery became known as the café with the “world’s friendliest customers”.
And surely Sylvia’s grandmother was right. Sylvia had passed it on, and like clockwork, the universe repaid her. She got a great opportunity to work as a deputy head of human resources in a newly opened private clinic.
What can we learn from this story?
If you get something, give something. Sylvia was lucky enough to experience Matthew’s kindness and decided to do the same for another stranger. When she decided to pay her debt, she saw a clear path out of all her challenges and inspired others to be kinder.
Be friendly; you never know who might need it. None of these wonderful things would have happened to Sylvia, or to the many strangers who frequented the restaurant, if Matthew had not observed Sylvia and offered his timely assistance. A small act of kindness touches more lives than you can imagine.
Share this story with your friends. It could brighten their day and inspire them.
If you liked this story, you might also like the story about another kind woman who buys a poor boy a meal and whose kindness changes the life of the boy’s entire family.
This story was inspired by the everyday lives of our readers and written by a professional writer. Any resemblance to actual names and locations is purely coincidental. All images are for illustration purposes only. Tell us your story; maybe it will change someone’s life. If you would like to share your story with us, please send it to [email protected] .