After serving the same patron for almost a year, a waitress in a Times Square restaurant received the tip of a lifetime last week. The check: $43.50. Her tip: $3,000.
The customer, a New Yorker named Mike who wished to remain anonymous, said he simply wanted to pay it forward.
"This woman had been serving us for almost a year now. She's a lovely individual, and she talked about how she was served an eviction notice last month," Mike told ABC News.
Even more monumental than the tip was the story behind it. Mike didn't just leave a large tip. He left his waitress some very specific instructions, written in a note along with the check. "Thank you for your kindness and humility. My teacher in middle school had such a difficult experience a few years ago which has sparked me to do this," he wrote, including a list of requirements.
1) Go to reesspechtlife.com and learn!
2) Don’t let pay it forward end with you.
3) Since it is about the idea and not about you, or me, if you decide to share this, please don’t use either of our names!
"Thanks for always being around for all of my shows off and on Broadway," he continued. "I hope that one day someone gives as much love and happiness into the world as you do.”
The teacher who inspired the anonymous tipper is Richard Specht, a middle school science teacher at the Great Hollow Middle School in Nesconset, N.Y. Mr. Specht and his wife, Samantha, started a foundation, "ReesSpecht Life," a pay-it-forward movement, after the death of his 22-month-old son, Richard Edwin-Ehmer Specht, affectionately known as Rees, in a drowning accident in 2012.
“It happened two days before Hurricane Sandy," Specht told Yahoo Parenting. "Then we went through the storm and lost our power for two weeks and it was a nightmare on top of a nightmare. We had people coming from all over to help us — a landscaping company came and redid our yard and wouldn’t take any payment from us, friends and family brought food and wouldn’t let us pay them back. So we decided to pay people back anonymously. If we couldn’t pay it back we’d pay it forward.”
The ReesSpecht Life foundation was launched to inspire people to pay kindness forward in Rees’s memory. The Spechts have distributed more than 100,000 business cards with the foundation name encouraging others to pay it forward, and have a Facebook page with over 52,000 likes."
"I met Mr. Specht in eighth grade – I was his science student – and he's an incredible human being," Mike told a local ABC News affiliate. "To see something so horrible happen to him ... it doesn't surprise me that he would start a foundation out of something so horrible that would just continue to keep good around and to keep wonderful things going. It was heart-wrenching for me to see it happen. I had been trying to pay it forward and this was just a big opportunity for me to be able to honor someone that's so wonderful."
When Specht heard about the monumental tip, he said he was shocked.
“I got an email from this young lady on Wednesday night with a photo attached, and I couldn’t believe it. My mouth hit the floor,” Specht told Yahoo Parenting. The email was from the Times Square waitress, who included a picture of the check, tip, and note that mentioned Specht's foundation. “I started crying. I really wanted to run upstairs and wake up my wife, but I just couldn’t. So instead I looked at one of Rees’s pictures and I talked to him and I said ‘I can’t believe you inspired this.’ It was a surreal moment.”
Even though Mike's large tip made headlines, Specht said even small acts of kindness can make a big difference, and encouraged those who came across his story to pay it forward.
“We lose track of the fact that it’s the small things we do that cumulatively make a difference,” he said. “I want people to focus on those small acts so we can regain that sense of community and compassion and respect...I want to make the world a kinder place.”