Essays · LiFe

A Good Tip Goes A Long Way

I just got done reading a story on NPR, and then watching the video, about the dying wish of a 30 year old. With a request in his will this young man has changed the world. A simple thing has turned into something magical and meaningful, giving hope and the knowledge that good things can and do happen sometimes.

I encourage you to read the story yourselves, but for the purposes of recapping I’ll say this, he willed that his brother/family give someone a $500 tip. That was it. Simple. He just wanted them to do something amazing for someone.  They did.

I can connect only a little bit to this story in that one day, when I was in Chicago with my brother, Kevin, we went out to eat at this old restaurant/diner near our hotel, which was near the airport where we would fly out the next day. We walked to this place from our hotel and had a decent dinner. Our waitress, an older woman, wearing one of those old zip up polyester uniforms, was perfect, and we could tell she’d been doing it for years and years.  And maybe all those years had been spent at this same restaurant.  That’s what it seemed like.  Being a great server is a hard thing. It’s a beautiful balance between being attentive and leaving people alone, being chatty without being annoyingly chatty, and knowing when and how to deal with your customers. This woman had all of that, and more. She was sweet and attentive and we liked her a lot, plus she was on it with every aspect of the service she gave us.

Those that know me know I’m a good tipper. I’ve never been a waitress, but I’ve had jobs where I got tips, and I also worked for a catering service for a summer. I know what it’s like to wait on people, to serve them, and it’s not easy. So I tip well if I think the person does a good job. This particular day my brother and I were done eating and I decided to give her a $20 dollar tip. The meal, in total, was probably $30, so it was a decent tip. Nothing like what the young man is doing in the name of his brother, if you read the article I highlighted above or watch the video included with this post, but $20 was a bit more than 20%. It was an amazing thing. For me, I think, as much if not more, than for her. She was taken aback and told me I’d made a mistake. I told her I hadn’t. She expressed a sort of amazed and shocked thank you. I knew in that moment her day had been made slightly brighter. I know her reaction meant mine had as well. It was a small thing to do, but isn’t that the point. Good things, good surprises, can and do happen.  And those good things can be a small token of goodwill, a small gesture, a simple act of kindness.

When I was a kid my brother and I used to walk to the little grocery store in our tiny town.  One day we were in there looking for a soda and found a bottle of seven up that had a cap on it, but nothing in the bottle.  We took it up to the check out to give to the clerk and he thought we were turning it in for the deposit.  When he tried to give us the money we said no, we didn’t want the deposit, we just wanted to give it to him as it was back there like it was for sale and there was no soda in it.  He looked at us for a minute and then said something about us being honest and good and that deserved a thank you and a reward.  He gave us ice cream bars for being such responsible kids.  We were shocked. We were just doing what we thought was the right thing, what we’d been lucky enough to be taught to do.  Turns out doing that can get you not only a free ice cream, but also a great feeling of self respect and pride.  It was a great lesson for me as a youngster.  A lesson about not only doing the right thing, but that in doing the right thing you get a great sense of pride and also a sense of community from it.

Awhile back Liberty Mutual had these series of commercials about responsibility.  Remember those spots?  I loved them.  People doing random, small, nice things for each other, someone sees them doing it and then does something themselves for someone else, and on and on.  It’s the same idea as giving a decent tip really.  It’s putting goodness out into the world.  It’s giving people hope and happiness and a sense that there are people out there in the world who will do the right thing, will do a good thing.

I’ve written a lot on this blog about this sort of thing.  About people seeing the world from a place of us instead of them, of being positive and helpful and understanding instead of negative and adversarial and judgmental.  I mean those words and feel them when I write them, when I say them aloud.  There is joy and beauty and hope and surprise and togetherness out there for the taking.  It’s a matter of choice and perception.  Choose to give.  Choose to see.  Choose to feel the connections around you.  Choose to act with kindness.  It’s as simple as opening the door for someone or picking up something someone dropped or looking at your adversary as a human being.  And that, my friends, is my tip for today.

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