Since the pandemic began, there have been hundreds of stories making the media rounds about heart-warming restaurant customers leaving behind generously large tips to the amazement of stunned and grateful waitstaff.
While it’s true that an extra—or even extravagant—monetary tip is always a nice bonus, sometimes a heartfelt show of appreciation can mean a whole lot more.
Last Sunday, as waitress Megan King was working a normal shift, she took the order of an elderly woman who came to eat alone. King remembers their interaction as pleasant, but nothing out of the ordinary.
“She came in about halfway through my 17-hour shift, and it was on Sunday, which is always pretty busy,” King told Newsweek. “About halfway through her meal, it started to slow down so we chatted for a few minutes. Small talk, nothing too deep. She told me she was almost 70… and she just wanted to stop by an old favorite for a bite.”
But the note the patron left behind with the $3 tip on her $11 check brought King to tears.
“Thank you very much for your kind service,” it read. “This was my first time eating out alone since my husband passed. I was hoping I could get through it.”
As the elderly customer ate her meal, King noticed the woman seemed quiet and in contemplation. As a waitress, King’s first instincts made her assume there might be something wrong with the food, but in hindsight, King wishes she’d been a little more alert to her customer’s cues.
“I wish I would’ve taken her quiet as an invitation,” she told Newsweek. “I think that’s what she wanted, looking back… I guess she did, in a way. [She needed] an ear.”
King says she was so choked with emotion when she read the note, she had to take a moment to recover in the ladies’ room before continuing her shift.
On Tuesday, captioned only with the words “in pain,” King posted a picture of the note and one of her tearful reactions to Twitter.
The now-viral tweet has amassed more than 821,000 likes so far and a ton of feedback.
“[T]hat’s super sad, but also sweet at the same time,” one viewer commented. “i just wanna give whoever wrote this note a hug.”
Some commenters noted that the woman had given King short shrift on the tip—leaving only a dollar—which was not the case. King was quick to dispel the error and the stereotype that the elderly are bad tippers in general.
“A lot of our customers are older and living on fixed incomes, so they tip what they can,” King told Newsweek. “They are always welcome, no matter how much or little they tip.”
As a rule, tipping at the end of a meal is recognition for good service, but it’s all too easy to lose the importance of human interaction in the transaction. King, who has a special place in her heart for the restaurant’s older patrons, hasn’t lost sight of what matters.
The word “gratuity” comes from the Latin gratuitas meaning “gift” or gratus “pleasing, thankful”—and not surprisingly, it’s also the same root word from which we get a measure of “grace.”
Not money in the bank, perhaps, but priceless nonetheless.