An Alabama mother and her son had just joined a line of cars at the local drive-thru when the young boy noticed something odd. Then, just a few seconds later, he jumped out of the vehicle and sprinted towards the car in front. It seemed like he was desperate to get there in the nick of time.
This is the story of a nine-year-old boy named Landon Routzong, who hit headlines recently for something he did while out with his mom in his hometown of Troy, Alabama. His actions on that summer’s day in 2017 were so remarkable, in fact, that his story ended up causing a social media storm.
To begin with, though, it was just a normal day for Landon and his mom, Tara Parker Routzong. They’d headed out in the car to pick up some food and ended up at their local Chick-fil-A drive-thru restaurant out on Highway 231. As they joined the line of cars, however, Landon noticed something out of the ordinary.
You see, the nine-year-old had spotted that the car in front of them in the drive-thru line wasn’t from around there. In fact, it was a very long way from home indeed. The eagle-eyed youngster could tell that just from looking at its license plate.
And realizing that the car was from Florida, the mother and son soon figured out why that vehicle might have been driving through Alabama. That’s because at that time Florida was being battered by the devastating Hurricane Irma, and a mass exodus from the state was taking place.
During the hurricane, then, it was common to see evacuees passing along Highway 231 on their way to safety. Indeed, the manager at that branch of Chick-fil-A subsequently told ABC News that the restaurant had had more customers than usual because of the evacuations.
So, feeling immediate sympathy for the driver of the car in front, Landon turned to his mom and said something that made her heart melt. Yes, the nine-year-old asked his mom if he could pay for the evacuee’s meal. And there was only one answer to that question.
There was still the issue of how to make it happen logistically, however. They consequently asked a restaurant employee how they could pull it off, and they were told that they would have to make sure that they got to the payment booth before the car in front did.
So there was only one thing for it. Handing her son her debit card, Tara told the nine-year-old to run. He then sprinted off towards the payment window and arrived there just in time. And when he was level with the driver in front, Landon asked him a question.
Landon checked if it was okay with the Hurricane Irma evacuee if the boy paid for his meal. The driver agreed and then shook the nine-year-old’s hand. And afterwards, the Florida-based man pulled his car over so that he could thank Landon and his mom properly.
This gave them the opportunity to find out more about his story. It turned out that the man was on his way to stay with some family members in Birmingham, Alabama, after fleeing the hurricane in his hometown, Miami. The Florida native, who remains anonymous, was also extremely grateful for the Routzongs’ act of kindness.
Their conversation was so emotional that the mother and son both had tears in their eyes by the time it ended. Tara found the encounter so touching, in fact, that she subsequently took to Facebook to share the man’s story with her online community. And sure enough, her post soon went viral.
In it, she explained the full story, including how the three of them parted outside the Troy Chick-fil-A. “I told him we hoped he returned to his house untouched and that we’d keep him in our thoughts,” she wrote. Before long, the post had attracted more than 1,000 reactions.
People were naturally amazed by Landon’s thoughtfulness, but no one was more proud of him than his mom. To the nine-year-old, however, it didn’t even seem like such a big deal. He later told ABC News what went through his mind when he saw the Florida license plate at the drive-thru.
“I didn’t want them to waste their money on food because they’re trying to escape the hurricane,” he explained. “I felt like I should help out.” So that’s exactly what he did – and the recipient of his kindness reportedly couldn’t have been more grateful.
Landon, who was usually a shy boy, also blew his mom away when he sprinted to pay for the meal before the evacuee had a chance to. “I was really proud of him for doing that,” she told ABC News after the Chick-fil-A encounter.
And she felt that it reflected positively on her parenting skills. In her Facebook post, Tara wrote that sometimes she feels as though she’s “failing” because she “can’t do it all.” But then she explained how that day at Chick-fil-A made her believe that she was doing okay after all.
“My most important job is going just fine,” the proud mom wrote, referring to the responsibilities of parenthood. There’s no doubt that moms all over the world would have been beaming with pride, too, if their child had acted in the same mature manner as Landon.
And once people heard about the viral story, some of them wanted to reach out to the Routzongs, presumably to express their gratitude for Landon’s actions that day or to praise his generosity. In fact, it got to the point where people were sending them mail.
Via Facebook, Tara thanked all those who had sent letters without return addresses written on them. “Your kindness and generosity have not gone unnoticed, I just wish I had a way to personally thank each of you,” she wrote. Let’s hope that Landon’s story continues to inspire others to follow his example, too.