This memory has been done. For some reason it has always bothered me that this memory was shared in Chicken Soup for the Soul book years after it happened to me. Or, at least I read it years after. I am not sure why that seemed to make my memory null and void, but recently I realized that if the world is the way we want it to be, this memory is being made all over the world everyday.
It was after the lunch rush at the Mexican restaurant I worked at in Burlington, Vermont. Tortilla Flat for those who can, and want to picture the place. The bartender, cook and myself sat talking at the bar waiting for the next shift to come set us free when we heard the creak of the front door and two kids came in. I didn't move at first thinking they were probably stopping on a bike ride to use the bathroom. But they waited there and so I went to greet them.
I prided myself on treating all customers the same so I seated them, gave them a bowl of chips and salsa, and because they had dirty clothes and dirty faces I gave them water without them asking. One was definitely the elder and although I don't remember if they told me, I knew they were brothers. I walked by a few times and the menus were still open and they were counting coins. Finally, I stopped and asked if they had any questions. They asked some questions about the tax if they bought certain things and I realized they were really struggling to find something they could afford. They ordered one cup of chili and one cup of vanilla ice cream to share between the two of them.
Scott in the kitchen was as happy as I was to give these customers a little bit more without totally hurting their pride. So, the cup of chili became a bowl of chili. They both ate it very quickly. The cup of ice cream became to small sundaes. The older brother asked when I left it if that is what he ordered and I really didn't want him to feel like charity. I knew by his manners so far that he was old enough and proud enough for that to hurt, so I told him I had just split the cup so each brother could have his own. Then I quietly left the bill and thanked them for coming. They thanked me back.
When I saw them walk out the door I went to bus the table and immediately began to tear up. It was clear to me by the 35 cents left behind that when they were counting, checking prices, and asking about tax they were busy figuring the bill and also my tip. I have never forgotten that tip. It was more than money. It was the promise that the world would be okay.
The only regret I have about that day and those boys is that I couldn't meet their parents. To tell them I was honored to be a part of a world where a family like theirs also existed. Human beings have the power to be so amazing. And yes, I believe the world will be okay.