Life’s memories are made up of all kinds of experiences — some pleasant, some painful, and many a combination of the two. Sometimes the simplest thing can stir up those memories and have you unexpectedly reliving a major moment from your past. That’s just what happened to Sean Whalen one night when he took his son out to eat at their favorite Chinese restaurant.
It was a new waitress who was serving Sean and his son, and he couldn’t help but notice that she reminded him of his own single mom, who’d struggled to provide for him and his brother after his parent’s traumatic divorce.
As a single dad of three, he’d come to appreciate the perseverance required to overcome the challenges that accompany raising children alone. So, he did something special for this waitress. And his Facebook post about the emotional encounter has gotten everyone’s attention.
Waitress Brings Back Reminder From Past
In his post, Sean recounts the day that, as a kid, he and his dad got into a heated argument, and his dad was “going nuts.” His mom took him and his little brother to a hotel for the night, and when they returned to the house the next day, they found his dad had changed the locks. Though his mom begged his dad to let them in, he wouldn’t. Instead, they had to come back with a police escort the next day. The cops gave them black trash bags and 10 minutes to “gather up the necessities.”
And just like that, with no family to lean on for support, it was up to Sean’s mom to raise two boys all on her own.
To make matters worse, Sean’s dad cleaned out the bank accounts. As a result, his mom literally just had the money left in her purse. Strangers from church were the ones who helped Sean, his mom and his little brother get set up in a condo. They brought them food, pots and pans, couches, etc.
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It was an extremely difficult time for his family. But I can remember a pastor once saying that God can turn your greatest mess into a message. Sean’s amazing mom leaned on the Almighty for strength, and that’s just what He did.
Sean writes in his Facebook post:
“I still to this day don't know how she did it. I have no idea how she didn't throw in the towel at times.
I would have.
I remember vividly walking past her room countless nights seeing her on her knees praying. I can only fathom what those conversations were like between her and God. I can only fathom the amount of tears that poured down this sweet woman's face as she pleaded with God for a break.
I have felt some intense pain in my day. I've questioned many things, but this single mom with two boys never gave up.
She never one time gave up.”
A New Perspective
Sean says that it wasn’t until he became a single parent himself that he realized just how hard his mom worked to provide for him and his brother.
He saw this same hustle in the waitress who was new to their favorite restaurant and was waiting on them for the first time. She did a wonderful job serving them, but Sean says,
“Over small talk and water refills, I got the sense that this single mom didn't want to be there, but had to be there and she was doing her best to smile.”
Having watched his mom go through the same grind, it really struck a chord with him. So when the bill came, Sean left a very generous tip.
But it wasn’t really about the money. He hoped the gesture of kindness and understanding would give the waitress the encouragement she needed.
Message Behind The Tip
“I know my tip won't pay her rent. I know my tip won't pay for kids braces. I know my tip won't keep the fridge full. But I hoped tonight in some way it might put a smile on her face, and she can go home to her babies happier than when she left them.
I don't know her whole story. I don't need to.
I felt tonight that maybe along the way someone did this for my mom, and that's what kept her going on nights she wanted to quit.”
He goes on to share just how much the “mess” from that tough time in his past turned into a message that still influences his life today:
“I have been blessed beyond measure, and my mother paved the way for my persistence. She showed me how to bounce back. She showed me what work and effort is.
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.
Single moms who grind.... RESPECT. You are beautiful and your posterity will learn from your efforts. They are watching you. Just as I watched my mom.
Mom I love you. You are my hero.”
God Can Use Our Messes
It’s incredible to see how God can use all of the experiences in our lives. Whether they are good or bad, God can use them for a greater purpose. Sean’s past allowed him to see something in this waitress that others would have easily missed. And because of his own experience, he was able to bless another at a time when she needed it most.
"For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity" Proverbs 24:16
Everyone’s “mess” is different, but we all fall. But it’s through Him that we can find the strength to get back up and transform even the biggest “mess” into a beautiful “message!”
“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.” Jeremiah 17:14
h/t: Little Things
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