Sean Whalen was sitting in a Chinese restaurant with his son when he got chatting to their waitress. That might sound pretty ordinary, but during the course of the conversation Whalen found himself moved by her story. And what happened next might just move you, too.
But we’ll get to that. You see, the story really began when Whalen’s parents split up while he was just a kid. Of course, the day it happened is a day this Utah guy will never forget; it was the day that his whole life came tumbling down around him.
In fact, as everything broke down between his parents, Whalen, his little brother and their mom fled the family home. This was a drastic move, but the family were worried about what would happen if they stayed.
The family did, however, return the next day, and yet they were in for a shock. Indeed, Whalen’s dad had changed the locks and wouldn’t let them back in. The only way around this, it seemed, was to get the police involved.
Shortly afterward, then, Whalen was given a black garbage bag by a cop and was told that he had ten minutes to pack the essentials. “No baseball trophies. None of my 10,000 baseball cards. None of my stuff. Hell, I left my pet turtle,” Whalen recounted in an emotional Facebook post.
But Whalen’s dad wasn’t done with them yet. In fact, the man emptied the family bank account, and Whalen’s mom was left with two kids to raise and no money with which to do it. Moreover, there was no other family around, so his mom had to rely on the kindness of people from her church to get by.
Plus, the boys’ mom worked every hour she could to provide for them. She never gave up hope, either, and she did everything she could to give her sons everything they ever wanted.
“I have no idea how she didn’t throw in the towel at times. I would have,” Whalen wrote on Facebook. “I remember vividly walking past her room countless nights seeing her on her knees praying.”
And in a case of history repeating itself, the grown-up Whalen is now a single dad to three youngsters. Furthermore, it was only through finding himself in this position that he finally truly understands the incredible sacrifices that his mom made for her kids.
Which brings us back to that night in the Chinese restaurant. The place was nothing special on the surface of it, but the Whalens liked it there. This time, though, they were served by a new waitress.
Whalen immediately liked her. She was very friendly, after all, and they got talking. As it turned out, the waitress was a single mom, too, and Whalen got the impression that she wasn’t particularly happy working at the restaurant.
The similarities between the waitress and Whalen’s mom were uncanny, he thought. “It tore my heart out,” he wrote on Facebook. “I thought of my mom, and I saw the same hustle in this woman that I saw in my mom.”
He explained further, writing, “A single mom working on a Wednesday night to ensure she can put food on the table and shoes on the kids’ feet. Not for opulence, not for status, but to live.”
When the waitress returned with the check, then, Whalen decided to give her something extra. It was more than simply a gesture of thanks, too; it was recognition and respect all rolled into one.
In fact, on top of the cost of his meal – just $25 – Whalen left the waitress a $100 cash tip. And while it wouldn’t change her life or mean she could leave her job, it no doubt made her feel pretty good about herself.
“I empathized for her, I felt her pain,” he wrote on Facebook. “I kept thinking of my mom and how difficult it is for a single woman to go from homemaker to bread winner.”
“I hope this small gesture with my son tonight brightens this woman’s life so she can wake up tomorrow and fight a good fight,” he explained. “I don’t know her whole story – I don’t need to.”
Whalen took to Facebook on March 17, 2016 to write the story of his childhood and explain why he decided to help the waitress he met at the restaurant. And as a tale like this only deserves, the post quickly went viral.
Indeed, as of June 2016 it had attracted 147,000 likes and had been shared more than 65,000 times. “I am blown away at all the comments and shares on this post,” Whalen wrote in an update on the social media site.
The best part? At the end of the viral post, Whalen made a dedication to his mom. “Mom I love you,” he wrote. “You are my hero.” It was a touching tribute to a woman he respects so much, and a powerful reminder of how hard some parents work just to put food on the table for their kids.