Stories of Kindness from Around the World

A Smile Card Apology To A Lonely Lady

--by jazzyswami, posted Nov 2, 2013
A few days ago I was sitting in a Thai restaurant enjoying a meal when I got on a phone call with a friend I hadn't spoken to in a long time. In my enthusiasm and excitement I talked slightly louder than usual voice and in Spanish, my mother tongue.

A few minutes into the call the lady sitting at the table beside mine got up, seemingly offended, and asked the restaurant staff to relocate her to a table as far away as possible from this man who won't get off his phone.

I sank in my seat out of embarrassment. I ended the call soon afterwards and felt the urge to go over and apologize. Before getting up I looked around to see where she was and she was, indeed, at the table furthest away from me. Kudos to the restaurant staff.

I noticed that the lady was alone and staring out the window. I thought I detected a tinge of sadness or melancholy and perhaps an implicit desire for aloneness and the peace I had so obviously shattered minutes earlier. 

Right then I abandoned my plans for a conventional apologetic gesture and decided to conduct an experiment. Seeing those funny Smile cards in my wallet I took one out. On signing my restaurant check I asked my server to secretly charge the lady's meal to my credit card and hand her the Smile card instead of her bill. 

I left the premises at that point, letting the staff know to expect me back in a few hours to pick up my credit card and close the bill.

I returned later as promised, excited to learn the outcome of the experiment. Did she take it the wrong way, I wondered? Did she get confused? Did she refuse the anonymous offer? And so on.
To my pleasant surprise, things turned out the best possible way, which is why I am sharing this story with you today! 

A cohort of restaurant staff approached me in a stream of joy, telling me that in the many times she had dined there before they had never seen the old lady smile and laugh like she did upon receiving the Smile card and the $0 check. "She opened up," they said. "She thanked us even though we explained that someone else did the job."        

To top it off, the staff inquired about the Smile cards and how to obtain them so as to conduct their own experiments.
It was an interesting, fun, experiment which may hopefully result in many more. 
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Readers Comments

whiga wrote: Great act of kindness, great story!
suezrider wrote: This brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful thing you did. If more people payed attention to the world around them like you do then pages like this wouldn't be necessary. Me included. You are indeed kind! Have a wonderful day.
Giselle.greg wrote: That was a great idea and it worked. It is nice that you went out of your way to comfort her.
kate.pseudo wrote: I love this story so much and even more so what you did. It's so important not to live in our own bubbles and forget about being aware of what's happening around us and how we can change it for the better or worse.
blumberg.janice wrote: That was such a wonderful way to apologize to that woman. What a happy ending.
VLR61182 wrote: Your humility and generosity warm my heart. Thank you!
Kay Seaberry wrote: What are smile cards? Fantastic share.
beckyruth wrote: Wonderful story. I think what i loved most was your awareness to her feelings, empathy & compassion and then such a generous apology.
guetv wrote: How wonderful of you! For me, in a similar situation, the most difficult part would have been my initial reaction to the lady's irritation. Guilt at ruining her quiet meal would quickly have dissolved into irritation at having my failing highlighted and perhaps even anger because her public move away from my table might have humiliated me. Reading your story reminded me that there are so many different ways to perceive a situation that we need never fill our hearts and minds with negativity. Not only did your positive outlook salvage your experience but your kind gesture inspired others and turned the lady's experience around as well!
elise.mayberry wrote: So beautiful! And you didn't even wait to take the credit. God bless!

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