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The power of witness: Strangers inspired to pay families’ bills


Andrey Burstein | Shutterstock

Tom Hoopes - published on 01/20/20

Don't wait till the time is "right" ...

Never underestimate the power of the witness of Christian charity — or the attractiveness of Christian family life.

The Facebook page “Catholic Connect” recently shared a beautiful story:

After Mass, we went to our favorite brunch spot. At the end of the meal our waitress brought us this slip instead of our check. Someone paid for our whole family of six — which is not inexpensive.

The note said this:

Please enjoy breakfast on me. I admire the strength and courage it takes to have such a special family. I noticed you said grace together, and I’m not religious, but I’m a service member (Air Force) and have had plenty of strangers buy my meal. Thank you for what you’re doing, and letting me pay it forward. … God bless, Anonymous.

I saw the story shared on a site called “Catholic Geeks” and it elicited some beautiful comments.  Here are a few of them.

Strong family life gets noticed.

Never forget when you are out with your family that people are watching and forming impressions from how you behave. 

Brigette Denise went to breakfast with her three children, all under 5, while her husband was deployed. When it was time to pay up, she got a note from a benefactor instead of a bill. “You look like a wonderful mother and such well-behaved kids,” it said. “Enjoy! I was there and you are doing great.”

Kelly Schweiger once had to drive six hours with four children to and from her cousin’s funeral. On the way home, “We were tired, emotional and wrung out,” she said. They stopped at a random highway restaurant and were surprised when they found their bill paid at the end. 

“The waitress told us our check had been paid by a businessman who said our kids were so good and we looked like a nice young family that could use a happy surprise,” she said. He was right.

Public faith draws public charity.

Jesus praised those who would give even a mere cup of water to one of his followers. Some commenters received way more than water.

“While in college,” wrote Cindy Fogle, “a group of us went out to eat after a retreat. We found out someone paid our bill because they were encouraged by ‘young people saying grace on their own.’” 

Calvin Jensen had the same experience when he walked across the country in the pro-life group Crossroads. “We always wore shirts the say ‘pro-life’ in big bold letters. Every once in a while someone would buy us dinner or pay for a bill,” he said — they even got admission covered at Cedar Point amusement park.

Good manners are their own reward. But sometimes … 

Irene Alderman remembered a time when a couple noticed her family of nine — seven kids from ages 3 to 12 — at a birthday dinner for the 5-year-old. “They were so impressed with the children’s manners that they approached the manager about paying our bill.” The manager comped the bill instead. 

And never underestimate the power of a sharply dressed 8-year-old. Echo Hobbs took her son out to brunch after Mass. “Busy place, he’s all dressed up in vest and tie, practicing his table manners,” she said. “I was just busy parenting and not paying attention to anyone around us; but someone was obviously paying attention to us and bought our meal.” 

We all long for strong family life — and when we see it in others, it awakens a deep affinity. 

Amanda Jones recalls one time she and her children found their bill paid anonymously by (they think) a man who “remarked how our kids reminded him of his childhood with all his siblings.”

Putting your phone down is in itself a powerful witness. Mackenzie Kay discovered this when she went out for pizza with her family last summer and found their bill paid.The waitress said it was paid by a man who “enjoyed seeing a family with phones in the middle of the table face-down and having real time.”

But don’t just wait to receive … be the first to give.

After reading through these stories and many more, Kadesh Swanson wrote the moral of the story.

“Honestly this is the call of Christians,” he said. “Give till it hurts. Give to those less fortunate. Don’t wait till the time is ‘right’ if God calls you to give, then have faith and give!” 



Read more:
Parish priest personally pays the bills of 200 redundant coal miners

Aleteia loves to inspire our readers with the testimony of grace all around us. Read more Inspiring Stories here.

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