The summer after she graduated from high school, my mom waitressed at a tiny little breakfast place in the beachside town where her family spent the summers. One day, a middle-aged man came in all by himself and ordered a bloody mary and toast. My mom (ever the good Catholic school girl) told the man that she had no clue what a bloody mary was, but if he told her what he needed she’d bring it out for him. On his instruction, she went into the kitchen and brought back a very specific array of things: hot sauce, celery, Worcestershire, and a big glass of tomato juice. My mom was amused by the man’s very particular instructions, and he got a kick out of her willingness to bring him whatever he wanted.

It was the end of her shift and she didn’t have many tables, so my mom started making conversation with the man. At some point, he commented on her many freckles, and she sheepishly brushed the comment aside (“It was probably obvious to him that I didn’t like them,” she says now). After he ate his breakfast and paid a measly $3 bill, he fanned out a bunch of hundred-dollar bills and asked my mom to take whatever she wanted as a tip. “I was taken aback,” my mom remembers. “I thought he wanted to reward me for getting all the bloody mary ingredients. I said ‘absolutely not!’ and told him just to leave the tip on the table and not to worry, he was no bother.” He did just that, but returned as my mom was getting ready to leave and handed her a $100 bill. “He said ‘I want you to have this, and I don’t ever want you to feel self-conscious about your freckles again.’ I was shocked – that was a LOT of money back then!” my mom says. “When my shift was over I biked to our apartment with one hand in my pocket so I wouldn’t lose the bill. I got there and told my family, who was at the pool, and then the lifeguards threw me in!”

Decades later, the memory is still as clear as day to my mom, and when she talks about it you can see her face light up with the surprise and joy of the moment. Wouldn’t it be awesome to do that for someone else? Well, Maggie did just that for a subway violinist last month, and her story is pretty awesome. Check it out here.

 

P.S. My mom swears she’s liked her freckles since that moment!