Imagine the worry that comes with knowing that you’re about to be evicted from your apartment and have no way to pay the back rent. Now imagine the joy and relief that comes when someone you barely know swoops in to give you a gift that gets you out of trouble AND turns your life and finances right-side up again. That’s the story of a pregnant waitress in New York City who benefited from the generous spirit of a science teacher she never met.
The waitress happened to mention to one of her regular customers — a man named Mike whom she had served regularly over the previous year — that she had been served with an eviction notice. That news got Mike thinking about a challenge from his middle school science teacher.
That teacher, Rich Specht, survived a horrible tragedy when his beloved son Rees drowned at the age of 22 months. In the wake of their pain, Specht and his wife started a foundation named for their son. ReesSpecht Life focuses on encouraging kindness as well as teaching about water safety. Part of the mission of ReesSpecht Life involves a pay it forward movement that encourages people to show goodness to others, including strangers, as a response to the kindnesses they themselves have been shown.
Mike, now a Broadway star, remembered how heart-wrenching it was when his teacher Mr. Specht lost his son. As he heard the tale his waitress told, he was reminded of Specht’s pay-it-forward philosophy, and he decided to put it into action by leaving a $3,000 tip on his credit card — enough to help the waitress cover her rent and save her from eviction. Given that Mike’s bill at the diner was only $43.50, that amounted to a 7,000 percent tip, far above the $7.19 recommended on the receipt.
When the waitress let Specht know what Mike had done, Specht burst into tears, overjoyed that even years after his son’s death, his memory could inspire someone to do so much good. Mike left a touching note with his tip, asking the waitress to continue to “pay it forward,” an inspiring message for everyone who hears it.