This story of kindness makes me smile so big. It is an act of kindness I have heard about, read about, even WROTE about near the beginning of this project* (see link at the bottom of this post), but this is the first time I was (almost) around to witness it!!
Ryan and Beth were in a restaurant eating lunch. They were working at a conference, and had taken their hour-long break to grab a bite to eat. But before you can understand the act of kindness and how cool it was, you need to understand Ryan and Beth and how cool THEY are! Smiley face**.
|Photo of Ryan and Beth seated and smiling. Ryan is wearing a green short sleeve t shirt and Beth is wearing a short sleeve dark green shirt. Beth wears glasses and a silver bracelet. They are at a table in a restaurant.***|
Beth is Deaf. She lives in Seattle. She is a “PAP” – Professional Access Provider. Basically, that means she provides full communication and access to someone who is both Deaf AND Blind, a person who is known as DeafBlind. Beth does many things in her PAP role – guiding, interpreting menus, interpreting conversations, traveling with a DeafBlind person – she does a LOT. One thing she does NOT do is HELP. She is not a HELPER, she is just there to facilitate the independence of the DeafBlind person. And trust me, if you met her client Ryan, you would understand that he is not looking for HELP, smiley face.
|Photo of Beth seated, smiling. She is wearing a bright orange shirt that says "St.. Lucia"|
Ryan is DeafBlind****. He also lives in Seattle and is who Beth was working with on the day that this kindness occurred. He communicates via tactile sign language, or preferably via "pro-tactile" - which conveys not only the WORDS that are spoken, but the visual environment and the non-manual responses of those around him (like head nods). Ryan is wicked smart. The things you and I “cheat” and look at our cell phones to confirm (you know, like someone’s phone number, the address of where we are staying, a credit card number…) – yeah, Ryan has all of that stuff MEMORIZED. He communicates using American Sign Language (ASL) and braille. His cell phone syncs with a Bluetooth braille reader, which gives him access to everything you and I take in with our eyes.
|Photo of Ryan. He is standing outdoors, wearing a black shirt and smiling. |
There are green trees, grass, and a light in the background.
So, on the day this kindness occurred Ryan was working at a booth at a conference and Beth was supporting him. They took their lunch break, and when I saw them after they ate they were both smiling from ear to ear!!! I talked with them to ask what made them so happy, and here is what they told me:
Beth: “I was with my client, Ryan. He and I were wondering what to have for lunch and we decided on the Mexican restaurant, Mi Casa.”
Ryan: “We wanted chicken salad, but couldn’t find any good looking salads, so we settled on MiCasa, where we had eaten a couple of days before. We were hungry and pressed for time.”
Beth: “When we were finished with lunch, Ryan asked the waiter for the check and was told that the man who had been seated at a table behind us eating and had left had ALREADY PAID FOR US! We both thought, ‘What???’. Ryan asked the waiter who paid – what the person looked like and what his name was. The waiter wrote down the person’s name and gave it to us.”
How did it make you feel when you realized he paid, I asked.
Beth: “At first, I was kind of shocked. Then I thought, “Man, that was totally out of the blue that he paid for us!”. But it felt good. It gave me shivers. I thought, 'How generous for someone to do that!'."
Ryan: “It was really unexpected, shocking, and nice. It was a BIG PLUS! It was really inspirational. I thought it was so nice of him to buy our meal! It was a very unexpected random act of kindness.”
After they told me the story of what had happened, I could see that they really wanted to THANK this man. Also, I wanted to make sure he knew how touched they were that he had treated them! So, I set about FINDING him!! We had his name from the slip of paper the waiter gave them, so I started where any amateur Private Investigator would start – FACEBOOK!!
As luck would have it, the secret stranger has a super long (12 letters!) last name, so even though the waiter actually wrote it down wrong and skipped one letter, I FOUND THE MAN ON FB! I could tell from the name, location, and job description that he was likely our guy! I did a bit more detective work (part of which was walking around trying to read name tags of conference attendees, but that idea didn’t help much, grin). But asking at the registration desk was very effective, and resulted in an email getting to the man asking him to come to Ryan’s booth.
Sure enough, about an hour later, up he walked!!! He was very humble and a bit shy, but happily accepted Ryan and Beth’s profuse thanks. He was also happy to receive an official KINDNESS ACTIVIST pin (which he said he would give to his daughter).
The BEST PART of getting to meet the Kindness Activist was learning WHY he had paid for their lunch. You might imagine it was because he saw them and wanted to “help”. Or maybe because he is the type of person who likes to “pay it forward”. But no – he bought them lunch, he explained, because they had helped HIM the day before!!! He had come up to their booth (which was promoting Sprint IP Relay*****) and asked questions. Ryan had answered them so well and explained the product he was representing so thoroughly and clearly that the man just wanted to quietly “thank them” by picking up their check!! Isn’t that great?
When I asked Beth why she thought he bought them lunch, she said, “I think just out of the goodness of his heart, really.” Because the stranger paid "in secret" and because we only met him after I hunted for him, I will keep him anonymous and not call him out by name in this story. But I am very glad we got to meet him!
I asked Ryan and Beth if that had ever happened to them before, that a stranger paid for their meal. Remarkably, they BOTH had experienced it previously! “This is the 2nd time this has happened to me, but this one was even more touching,” said Beth. “The first time it happened was when we ate out and paid for some people from church. When someone saw we had done that, THEY paid for us! But this time it was totally out of the blue!” Ryan said, “This wasn’t the first time it I had experienced something like that. I had my meal paid for another time this month, too!”. I told him this must be his LUCKY MONTH – smile.
Like so many acts of kindness, this one inspired the recipients. Beth said, “I think that next time we go out to eat we need to “pay it forward” and buy someone else’s meal. We can inspire them!” Ryan agreed; “Yes, this inspired me to pay for someone else’s meal, too. I would rather pay for a disabled person’s meal”, to which Beth added that she, as his Professional Access Provider, can be on the look-out for a disabled person in a restaurant while they are eating.
I have a feeling that someday soon the “Ryan and Beth team” will be secretly picking up a stranger’s tab.
Kindness – it just keeps on spreading!!
*Link to the previous piece in Kindness Activist about paying for a stranger’s meal: Waffle Kindness
**You may have noticed that instead of using “emoticons” in this piece, a description of the emoticon was written out. That is because people who use braille do not have access to emoticons.
***You may have also noticed that the captions on the photos for this post are descriptions of the photos. That is so that people who are blind/low vision and use braille or a program that reads text aloud for them (a screen reader) can visualize what is shown in the photo.
****For more information about DeafBlindness, check out this link: AADB FAQ
*****More information about SprintIP, the product Ryan was promoting, can be found here: SprintIP