Debbie and Shaun Riddle were regulars at the West Side Cafe in Fort Worth, Texas. When they stopped by for lunch one day, they perhaps had more reason than ever to treat themselves. They had, after all, just suffered the loss of their baby daughter, Glory. But then their waitress asked an incredibly awkward question.
It was an afternoon in June, 2015 when the Riddles went to dine at the West Side. Although they ate there quite often, they were nonetheless surprised when their waitress remembered them from a previous visit. Indeed, it had been about a month since they last ate at the cafe.
In fact, their server that day, Kayla Lane, often remembers the customers who dine at West Side. Although she comes into contact with many people while waiting tables, she just has a knack for placing a face. “I remember people,” the waitress told CBS Dallas in June 2015. “I’m really good at remembering people.”
And as Kayla recalled, on their previous visit Debbie and Shaun had brought along their daughter, Glory. So, ever the thoughtful waitress, Kayla asked after the couple’s baby. However, it was a question that was met with an awkward response.
“They kind of looked at each other and were very silent,” Kayla explained. But the waitress couldn’t possibly have known the answer she would receive. In fact, the response broke her heart. As Shaun recalled, “We said, ‘Well, she passed away four weeks ago.’”
On May 4, 2015, Debbie had laid her newborn baby, Glory Alice Riddle, down for a nap. Tragically, the nine-week-old infant never woke up. As is the way in cases of Sudden Unexplained Infant Death Syndrome, Debbie and Shaun have never understood why this happened to their child.
Understandably, Kayla was then horrified that she had asked the question. “I’m like, ‘Oh gosh, I made them remember!’” she said. Of course, she hadn’t intended to make them think about the trauma that they’d recently experienced.
Unable to shake her embarrassment, Kayla consequently wanted to do something for the couple to make up for her blunder. So when Debbie and Shaun finished their meal and were ready to leave, she handed them the bill. And written on it was a note that touched the bereaved parents.
The note read, “Your ticket has been paid for. We are terribly sorry for your loss. God Bless – The West Side.” Debbie later admitted, “I was just shocked.” She even refused to accept the cafe’s gesture initially. But Kayla was adamant that the company would pick up the check.
However, the note, and indeed Kayla, weren’t telling the whole truth. The West Side Cafe hadn’t picked up the bill at all. It was actually Kayla herself who insisted on paying the check. In fact, the waitress was in the habit of picking up bills for members of the military and firefighters who dine at the restaurant.
“Normally, I pick up the check for people who are under-appreciated,” Kayla explained. But when it came to the Riddles, she didn’t pay their bill to ease her conscience at mentioning their daughter. Nor did she act out of pity for their heart-breaking situation.
“I didn’t do it because I felt guilty for bringing it up or even because I felt bad for them,” Kayla said. “I did it because it was amazing to see their strength through it all.” And it was a gesture that moved the Riddles so much that Debbie shared the note on Facebook.
While posting an image of the note on Facebook, Debbie also wrote a message. It read, “We hear so much negativity on the news, and so that is why I felt led to share this story in hopes that Kayla and this restaurant will get some good recognition.”
But the story doesn’t end there. Touched by Kayla’s generosity not just toward them but also the countless other checks that she has paid out of her own pocket, the Riddles wanted to do something for her. Debbie wanted it to be Kayla’s turn to reap the benefits of her own kindness.
When Debbie learned that Kayla was working in the cafe to fund her education to become a teacher, she figured that she had to do something to pay it forward. And as Debbie thought about what she could do, she imagined what her baby daughter might have done in that situation.
As it happened, inspiration came from an unexpected place. While Debbie was going through Glory’s things, she came across a onesie that her daughter had rarely had the chance to wear. Emblazoned with a butterfly and covered in pink hearts, its slogan read, “Kisses 25¢ – I’m saving for my college fund.”
It struck Debbie that her daughter would now never need a college fund. But it got her thinking that there are so many others who might never afford an education or, like Kayla, would struggle to make ends meet while studying. So, inspired by her waitress’ act of kindness, Debbie started a scholarship program in memory of Glory.
Though their grief at the time was immeasurable, the couple were given some much needed respite by Kayla’s selfless gesture. And in providing support for the cafe’s staff via this scholarship fund, the Riddles would not only echo that kindness, but also help make its workers’ lives easier, just as Kayla had theirs.
“I did pay for their meal, [but] I didn’t want any recognition,” Kayla subsequently wrote in her own Facebook post. “I just simply wanted the satisfaction of being a helping hand in a time of deep sorrow for this family. However, what I didn’t expect is how much of a blessing their family would be to me.”
She concluded, “Their faith was apparent and it inspired me so much. The downpour of positive words and chain of love that this story has started around the world is more than I could have ever expected and makes my heart so happy… I am eternally grateful.”