Samantha had been working as a waitress in a Montana coffee shop for eight years. She had turned 30, and her job expectations hadn’t changed since then. It wasn’t the ideal job, but she couldn’t complain either. She liked being a waitress. In fact, she talked to her boss about taking over the diner when it was time for him to retire. But that didn’t stop her from feeling frustrated on many days.
A waitress’s salary is nothing to write home about; we all know that. But at least it allowed her to have a decent place to live and pay her bills. Samantha was single, and although she had several relationships throughout her life, and they were short-lived, she was comfortable just the way she was. She enjoyed her solitude most of the time and loved spending time with family and friends when she needed to. However, being such a loner and having such low expectations with life led Samantha to develop a very reserved nature. Those who knew her best were accustomed to her off-color answers and poor sense of humor.
However, she was always difficult to deal with for the customers at the coffee shop, and somebody even dared to give her an affectionate nickname: the sad one. She knew she was called out, and although she didn’t like it, she never said anything and went on with her work. One of the main reasons why Samantha earned such a bad reputation was because she always complained about customers who consumed little and spent more than an hour sitting in a seat where another new customer could sit and consume more than them.
She was even more unpleasant with these customers, with the intention of making them feel uncomfortable so they would leave early. It was a bad habit she had developed over the years since, according to her, the customers who spent the most were the ones who benefited the business the most and who were most likely to end up leaving her a generous tip when they left. Something totally unjustified that only fueled the rumors that the waitress in the coffee shop was a stingy witch who was only interested in taking a few extra dollars at the end of the day.
Sam’s routine was always the same; she never varied and never tried anything new to make it different. She liked it that way. Samantha would get up at six in the morning to be the first to arrive at the coffee shop and have everything ready before the first customers arrived. She would shower, have a long unsweetened coffee, and two pieces of peanut butter toast for breakfast. She would pull her hair up in a tight bun, put on her uniform, and walk for 20 minutes to work. Nothing new, nothing important, and always the same routine.
Until one day, finally, a totally unexpected event managed to shake her out of her lethargy and awaken in her a totally new and hitherto unknown feeling. A boy, only 10 years old, named Carl, came into the coffee shop and sat down at one of the tables. He was a very small boy to go to the cafeteria by himself, but he seemed very confident and sat patiently, waiting for the waitress, Samantha, to wait on him.
Seeing him sit down, Samantha was very upset. To her, it was those kinds of customers who only wasted her time and hardly brought any profit to the business, let alone to her personal collection of tips. “He’s hardly old enough to be here alone. It’s impossible for him to carry much money on him.
I’ll serve him quickly and try to make him go away,” said the waitress to herself as she approached the table where the boy was patiently waiting to be served. After all, her job was to serve customers, paying customers, of course. But no matter how little they spent, they were still paying, and in worthwhile customers, her boss always told her so. Although she always replied the opposite, and they would start a long and fruitless argument that got them nowhere. After all, Sam was just a waitress, and as long as she was like that, she could continue to follow her boss’s orders without complaint.
Sam walked over to the table and put a glass in front of the boy’s face. She did it roughly, and when the boy looked at her in surprise, she just stared at him with an angry look on her face while holding a pen in one hand and the order book in the other.
Her intention was to intimidate the boy as much as she could, but she didn’t succeed. He remained calm, with a slight smile on his lips, and asked her, “Good morning, Miss. Could you tell me what the price is of a large ice cream?” The tone of his voice denoted innocence and sweetness, something Sam couldn’t overlook. Still, she refused to be persuaded and remained as serious as she had at the beginning.
Sam cleared her voice and, trying not to look him in the eye, said, “The price of our XL cream ice cream is 50 cents.” The tone of Samantha’s voice was cold and cunning, but the boy paid no attention to her. Carl was quiet for a few seconds; he seemed to be deep in thought and looked down as he whispered in a very low voice.
He seemed to be counting. Samantha thought she heard him making mental calculations, but she couldn’t hear him well. A few moments later, the boy looked up at her again and asked, “Excuse me again, but could you tell me the price of a small ice cream?” The boy asked with the same sweetness and smiling face as before.
Samantha began to get impatient at the boy’s insistence. However, the way he was talking to her and looking at her prevented her from being more unpleasant, and she had to bite her tongue as she watched her cue forming at the counter. She was wasting too much time attending to a single child.
She wanted to finish as soon as possible and leave to attend to the rest of the customers. The waitress caught her breath and answered him again, rather impatiently, “Regular ice cream costs 35 cents. You think you can afford it? There’s no more ice cream on our menu, I warn you. I’m telling you in case you were thinking of asking the price of another ice cream,” Samantha told him, losing her nerves a little before the boy’s passive attitude and his slowness to decide which ice cream to have.
But Carl didn’t seem to mind. After several seconds, which seemed like an eternity to Samantha, the boy finally decided to order a small ice cream. “Take it easy, Miss. I won’t ask any more questions. I know what I’ll have. I want a small ice cream, that’s all. Thank you for taking care of me,” he told her in a tone of voice just as sweet and innocent as the beginning of the conversation. Then the boy returned her menu with a smile and folded his arms at his table to wait for his ice cream.
Samantha was very surprised by the boy’s attitude, but she was too busy to think about it. She wanted to finish her order as soon as possible and start serving the other people who kept coming into the cafeteria. A few minutes later, she returned with the small ice cream he’d ordered and the bill on a tray. She left it on the table where the boy was still waiting and left without saying anything to him. After leaving the boy at his table with the ice cream,
Samantha quickly began to attend to the other people who wanted some. However, she couldn’t help but look back at the table to see what he was doing.
The boy’s attitude had aroused a lot of curiosity in Sam, a totally unusual feeling for her and one she wasn’t used to dealing with. As she looked toward the table, she could see how the boy had his ice cream. He had quietly left the money for the bill on the tray and left without saying anything. She didn’t know why, but Sam expected the boy to turn around once again and say goodbye with the same kindness and gentleness with which he’d spoken to her before, but it didn’t happen. She decided not to give it another thought and get on with her work.
In the end, Samantha was relieved that the boy hadn’t stolen too much of her time. She was able to attend to the rest of the customers without a problem. Afterward, she went straight to the table where the boy had been eating his ice cream and picked it up quickly, preparing for the next customers. But as she did so, something caught her attention on the table. She found something that moved her deeply and made her feel incredibly sad. And worse, it made her feel like a bad person.
The boy had left her a tip. “It can’t be,” the waitress said to herself, trying to clear her thoughts and without finishing assimilating what just happened. On the tray next to the ice cream bill, the boy left her a 15 cent tip and had given her the rest of the money he had. How incredibly kind and sweet. Samantha was taken aback and paused, trying to think about what the boy had done, his attitude throughout their conversation. He was asking her for ice cream prices so he could have money left over to tip her later, not because he couldn’t afford the price of a larger one. How stupid she’d been, and how bad she felt for treating that sweet little boy so unkindly.
The waitress was overcome with guilt. How could she have been so cold and selfish to him? Tears welled up in her eyes the more she thought about it and in her conversation with the boy. He gave up his ice cream to give her a tip. Never before had someone done that for her, not even a family member or friend. And a boy she didn’t know at all, and on top of that, she had treated him terribly. He had thought of her and wanted to reward her work by sacrificing the little money he had to give it to her. Make her day.
After that day, Sam reflected deeply on her attitude toward clients and felt very bad about acting that way toward a boy of only 10 years old. In fact, she felt bad that she had always acted so badly with almost all her clients. The child’s selfless charity toward her, despite having treated him badly, made her reflect on the way she was acting. She realized that it made no sense to continue to be like that. Her bad mood and distrust were hurting the business, customers, and most of all, hurting herself.
In the following days, she tried to be kinder and waited for the boy to come back for another ice cream so she could thank him for what he’d done. She needed to apologize to the boy and explain how grateful she was to him. But the waitress had to be patient and wait longer than she expected. A month after their first encounter, Carl the boy walked back through the door to the coffee shop and sat down at one of the tables. Seeing him enter, Samantha hurried to serve him and asked him what he was going to order.
As she did so, the boy asked her again for the same thing as last time and remained just as friendly and smiling as the day they met. Samantha waited for the boy to finish his ice cream and watched him from the counter to check what he would do next. The boy got up, paid the bill, and prepared to leave. He prepared to tip the waitress again. That’s when she stepped in and, in a nice way, asked him not to. “You don’t have to leave me another tip. I really appreciate it, but I don’t deserve it. You came here a month ago, and I treated you very badly. I’m sure you remember that,” Samantha began to explain as gently as she could.
She was nervous and didn’t quite know what to do or say. Even her hands were shaking a little. The child looked at her quizzically but smiled at her again and answered her frankly, “I remember you perfectly well, Miss Samantha. My name’s Carl, by the way. I don’t know why you were in a bad mood that day, but you don’t have to apologize to me. We all have bad days. My mom’s always told me that you have to value other people’s work, whatever it is, because they’re people who try to make an honest living. And that’s what I did with you, honoring your work and congratulating you on the delicious ice cream you served me,” the boy explained in a kind and surprisingly mature way.
Samantha didn’t know what to say. She was overwhelmed by what this ten-year-old boy had just told her. Never before had anyone spoken to her like that, let alone told her that her work was valuable. She tried, but finally couldn’t hold back the tears. With her voice cracking and trying to keep her composure, she answered, “You’re an angel, Carl.
You don’t know how much I thank you for everything you’ve said and the kindness you’ve shown me, even though I hadn’t received it myself. Your mother has raised you well, and you deserve all the good in the world. I wish I could be the look of kindness and warmth that you are,” she said to him with a big smile on her face. “Of course you can be kind. Look at you, you can even smile. You have nothing to apologize for. I left you the tip because I felt it was the right thing to do, and I’ll do it again as often as possible.”
After that day, Samantha and Carl became great friends. Samantha learned to be kinder to others, and with the help of her boss, they created “Ice Cream Mondays” so that all those children who could not afford an ice cream from the menu would enjoy a free glass of ice cream at least one day a week.
Now everyone spoke well of Samantha, and no one else had called her the witch or the sad one again. Her friendship with Carl helped her to be a better person and taught her that money is something secondary because the really important thing is people. Learning to be able to see the goodness that resides in them.
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