Jamie Mathews Heustess had just enjoyed a day out with her family and was expecting to top it off with a nice meal out. Just as they were seated, however, her little son went into meltdown. Later, Jamie found herself explaining her son’s tantrum to their waitress, whose reaction made her cry.
Jamie comes from Pooler, Georgia. She lives there with her husband Chris and their little boy, Ian. And when she’s not caring for her own family, she works at the Memorial Health University Medical Center in nearby Savannah, GA, as a neonatal intensive care nurse.
In April 2017 Jamie spent some precious family time with her husband and son. The three of them had enjoyed a jam-packed day. And they decided to round things out with a visit to their local Cracker Barrel restaurant.
Going out for a meal was not always easy with Ian. That’s because the little boy has autism. The condition affects the way that people perceive and interact with the world around them and the people within it. As a result, that world can often seem overwhelming to those with autism, causing them to experience very high levels of anxiety.
And that was certainly the case for little Ian. Eating out, for instance, was known to sometimes be particularly stressful for the little one. In 2017 his mom Jamie wrote on Facebook that any visit to a restaurant was strewn with “trials and adventures.” She added, “It is truly hit or miss… most days we do OK.”
However, the family’s trip to Cracker Barrel proved to be one of those occasions upon which Ian struggled to cope. As a result, Chris took Ian home shortly after they had ordered drinks. But Jamie stayed behind to order some food and settle their bill.
Amid the drama of Chris having to take Ian home, the family’s waitress had approached their table multiple times. Eventually, once her husband and son had left, the server – whose name was Kailyn – asked Jamie for her order.
Recalling their interactions, Jamie later explained, “This was probably her fifth or sixth time stopping by the table. I said yes, and to go order, just for me. She asked if my husband or son wanted anything and I said no, my husband took our son home to reduce stimuli around him.”
It was at this point that Jamie decided to open up to the waitress. She explained that Ian was autistic and had become anxious after a long day out. As Jamie spoke, she realized that she was trying to defend her son’s “meltdown.” Deep down, Jamie was scared what people may think.
“By this time I was crying and having a moment,” Jamie revealed. “Not because I was embarrassed that my son is autistic, but because he is a good kid. I didn’t want anyone to think he was just a spoiled kid being a brat.”
Thankfully, Kailyn took Jamie’s distress in her stride. “Our server was gracious and sweet. She said it was not a problem, that she would get my order in quickly,” Jamie revealed. And with that, Kailyn scooted off to get the mom her food.
Around 15 minutes later, Kailyn emerged with Jamie’s order. And she had a special surprise up her sleeve. “She smiled and told me that my dinner had been taken care of, no need for payment,” Jamie revealed.
For the second time that day, the mom-of-one was unable to control her tears. “I started crying all over again,” Jamie admitted. “I asked if she was sure, and she reassured me it was taken care of, not to worry – I cried walking out, sure the other customers and employees thought I was crazy.”
That wasn’t the end of the story, however. After Jamie left the restaurant, she noticed a piece of paper attached to the bag with her food in. At first, the busy mom just assumed that it was the receipt, but she couldn’t have been more wrong.
Upon closer inspection, Jamie noticed that the note was handwritten. It was then that she realized it couldn’t have been a receipt. “It was something far more precious,” she later revealed. “In the midst of my own meltdown, [Kailyn] reached out with words of encouragement and a kind heart.”
In her note, Kailyn had written, “Your child is amazing, mommy. Be strong, keep your head up. You are doing a great job. Have a great night. Your server, Kailyn.” And although the waitress’ words may have been simple, they proved invaluable to Jamie.
Consequently, Jamie decided to place the letter somewhere that would allow her to admire it most days. “My note from Kailyn is now hanging on my fridge,” she revealed, “for those moments I need to be reminded of the kindness of strangers.”
Later, Jamie learned that Kailyn had hoped to pay for her meal using her own tips. But when her manager, James, learned about the situation, he settled the bill. Regardless, Kailyn’s positive impact on Jamie was undeniable. “She left me the words I needed to hear, that I think EVERY MOM needs to hear,” she explained.
In fact, Jamie was so certain that Kailyn’s kind words would provide inspiration for others that she decided to share them. So, she sent her story to the Love What Matters Facebook group. And it soon captured the hearts of many social media users.
Since first appearing there in 2017 Jamie’s story has clocked up 18,000 reactions and over 1,300 shares. And the post seemed to particularly resonate with other parents of autistic children. “Every day is a new chapter in our family’s story with autism,” one such user wrote. “But, just knowing there are parents out there with the same struggles and triumphs is comforting beyond words.”