Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes.
It was Christmas Eve 2016. My family went to Mass as we always do. After wrestling our boys for an hour, listening as intently as possible to the priest’s homily, and receiving our final blessing, we drove over to Red Robin for our annual Christmas Eve feast.
But this was not just some ordinary trip to a restaurant. Each year on Christmas Eve we have a tradition in which we give our server a $100 tip. And thanks to my wife’s (Alissa’s) keen sense of hospitality, we write a card, put the money in it, write his/her name on the envelope, thank him/her for working on Christmas Eve, and have one of our kids hand him/her the card.
It’s just a simple gesture. We wish we could do more, and we wish we could do it every time we go out to eat. But it’s something we budget for to make someone else’s Christmas special because we believe in practicing generosity.
This particular Christmas Eve, we were one of the first families to be seated at dinner time. Our server’s name was Derek. He was probably in his mid-20s, and we were his second table of the night.
About halfway through our dinner, Alissa noticed Derek clearing the table behind us after his first customers left. He appeared to be sad and disappointed, but you would have never known by the way he treated us. He smiled. He was courteous. And he made sure our drinks and french fries were refilled regularly. But still we wondered what was wrong.
After chowing down on my Royal Red Robin Burger, and watching the Arizona Cardinals defeat the Seattle Seahawks in what was a pretty meaningless game of football, we were ready to pay our bill. As Derek came over to check on us, we had Kellen, our oldest son, hand him the sealed envelope with the card and the $100 tip as we thanked him for his great service.
A few minutes later, before we even had a chance to get up and leave, Derek walked back to our table as tears filled his eyes. He had opened the envelope and was truly grateful. He couldn’t stop thanking us for the tip. Then he told us that he had felt discouraged because his first table of the night didn’t leave a tip at all. What we saw as a simple gesture, made a big difference to Derek and completely changed his night. It gave him hope.
If there’s one thing our world could use right now, it’s more generosity. On Christmas Eve (and various other times throughout the year), we, as a family, feel called by God to be generous financially. But it doesn’t always have to be with money. You could do it with a smile, a kind word, an unexpected gift, or some other simple gesture. But find some way to impact the hearts of the people you encounter. And what better time to do it, then right now, as we approach Christmas and wind down another year. Just think of the possibilities.
You could make someone’s day.
You could make someone’s year.
You could be the person who turns someone’s bad year into a good one. (Like a sort of end-of-the-year, generosity-filled buzzer beater.)
We haven’t seen Derek since that night. We don’t know what was going on in his life before we met him. And we don’t know what has happened since. But that night, Alissa and I went home, tucked our kids in bed as we prepared for all the festivities surrounding Christmas Day, and laid down for a long winter’s nap. But before falling asleep, we prayed for Derek. Because if there’s one simple gesture that can truly give hope, it’s prayer. And it makes the biggest difference of all.
Question: What is one simple gesture you’ve made this year to make a difference in the life of someone else? (Inspire others by sharing your story in the comments below.)