This I Believe

Kathryn - Thomson, Illinois
Entered on July 31, 2007

I believe that things happen for a reason—a good reason.

About two years ago, my husband and I went out to brunch. I was heading south when I said that we hadn’t been to a specific place in a while and asked my husband what he thought. He was non-committal, but I did a u-turn and headed there.

While my husband was waiting for his waffle to cook, I sat down at our table. The dining room was nearly empty and quiet. About thirty feet away, near the entrance to the kitchen, a waitress was on the telephone. Although I tried not to eavesdrop, I clearly heard her portion of the conversation.

She was upset, talking to about her daughter needing to buy three textbooks the next day for a college class. The books cost $200. She was panicked because the restaurant had been very slow the night before and she didn’t have the money. Her anguish permeated every word.

As she continued her conversation, I took out my checkbook and wrote a check for $200. Just as she finished her telephone conversation, I approached her and said, “I am couldn’t help overhearing you. I understand that your daughter needs $200 to buy some college textbooks. Here you go.” I handed her the check. She was astonished, speechless. She tucked the check into her apron pocket and disappeared into the kitchen.

A few minutes later, she reappeared, tearful. She approached our table, holding the check and said, “This is the nicest thing that anyone has ever done for me. Thank you very much, but I cannot accept your check.” I replied, “Yes, you can. It’s not for you. It’s for your daughter.” Tears streamed down her face as she walked away, clutching the check.

By this time, my husband had returned and as I was explaining what had happened, she came to our table again, trying to return the check. This time my husband responded, “Many years ago when I first came to this country and was a student, I had no money. My student visa allowed me to work only 20 hours per week and my job paid only $2 per hour. When my tuition came due, I was $200 short. The school threatened to expel me and I was going to be deported. I asked everyone I knew if I could borrow $200. Finally, when I asked a friend of my roommate, he asked if my roommate still wanted to buy his car. My roommate, who had just told me that he couldn’t spare $200, wanted the car. The acquaintance sold his car to my roommate and told him to give the $200 to me. That’s the only reason that I am here today. A relative stranger helped me. Now it is our turn to return the favor.”

Two acts of kindness, separated by more than thirty years and a u-turn! Not random at all. Yes, things definitely happen for a good reason.