Tuesday, March 11, 2008


S. W. Vaughn here, slipping out of character for a post to bring you a message that I believe needs to be heard.

In the front pages of nearly every novel, there is a dedication. Most of them are short and to-the-point; many are somewhat cryptic, particularly the ones that simply read "For [name]." I’ve often wondered what I’ll write in my own dedication, because there are so many people I’m grateful to for various reasons, it would be impossible to single out just one.

Last week, I decided on my first dedication, and I’d like to share the story with you.

I work nights at McDonalds. Yes, it’s true – writing does not pay the bills – but that’s another story. On Friday night, our busiest of the week, I was working the front counter. A man walked in right around 9 p.m. and asked if there was a limit on the number of double cheeseburgers he could buy. We told him there wasn’t, and he ordered 20 of them, along with two other sandwiches.

Normally, we would balk and mutter under our breaths (and call the customer names after he left) at such a big order, so late at night. By 9 p.m. we’re already looking toward closing the store – breaking things down, washing dishes, and generally hoping the customer flow will die down so we can try to get home some time before midnight. For some reason that night, though, we were galvanized by the challenge. Twenty double cheeseburgers! What fun! We joked with the customer, shifted into high production mode, and had his order ready in five minutes.

It took three bags. The manager and I packed everything in regular bags, and then salad bags (plastic with handles) to make it easier for the customer to carry. The manager headed for the back of the store to get stock, and I presented the order – but the customer didn’t leave. Instead, he pulled out more money, and I thought he’d decided to order something else.

He asked how many people were working that night. It took me and the other front person a few tries to come up with the right number – five crew, one manager – because that’s not a typical customer question. The customer proceeded to count out five twenties and a ten, and told me to give twenty dollars to each crewperson, and ten to the manager.

I stammered a lot, and finally managed to spit out a thank you. The customer smiled, and said, “I’ve been where you are, and I know what it’s like. I just wanted to let you know that I appreciate what you do.”

By the time I recovered enough to pass out the money, the customer had left the store. Our two grill people and the drive-thru person were just as stunned, and craned to get a glimpse of the man who’d just tipped us all about as much money as we’d make in wages that night, for a single order that cost him a grand total of $26. But it was too late – in true Good Samaritan style, the man had decided that the simple knowledge of what he’d done was enough for him.

One by one, after we got over the shock and amazement, the stories began to come out. One of the guys had been trying to figure out how he was going to be able to put gas in his car. One girl had been taking on extra hours because she’d only been scheduled a few days that week, but hadn’t had much luck because all the other crew needed their hours too. As for myself, I’d had an unforeseen expense that left me so broke, I didn’t think I’d be able to buy any more kerosene (which we currently use to heat the house) until the following Friday. The man’s gift had been incredibly timely – almost as if he’d known which time and which crew needed him most.

If you’d gone to our McDonalds after 9 p.m. that Friday night, you would have received the best fast food service you’d ever seen in your life. We’d been infected with the joy of knowing that there is good in people, and small miracles still exist in the world. That night, we didn’t hate our jobs. We weren’t just following procedures and going through the motions, marking our time because we needed the paychecks. We were feeding people who didn't have time to cook, and some of them appreciated it.

Here’s how my dedication is going to read:

To the man who walked into a McDonalds at 9:03 p.m. on a Friday night, ordered 20 double cheeseburgers and two Crispy Classic sandwiches (with no tomato), and tipped five crew people $20 apiece because you’d been where we are – from one of the crew, who appreciates your gift far more than you’ll ever know.

One day, I want to be like you.



Marta Stephens said...

S.W. this is the most beautiful, most touching story I've read in a long time. In light of all the self-centeredness going on around us these days, it’s wonderful to know that there is still some good in this world. I believe you were in the presence of an angel or someone very close to one.

This is a post I won’t easily forget. Thank you so much for sharing it with us.

s.w. vaughn said...

Marta, I think you're right about the angels. :-)

I only hope he actually sees the dedication some day, so he knows how much it meant to all of us.

Marta Stephens said...

What makes this story so poignant is that you live in a part of the U.S. that has horrendous winters. Last year the snow reached the rooftops of the homes in your small community and the weather isn’t much better this year which means that this man had to make a conscious effort to go out at that hour of night.

Only goes to show that kindness knows no boundaries. Makes me wonder who recieved the sandwiches.

Vana Roth said...

Dear S.W.,

Marta is right! This is the most touching tribute I've read in a very long time. I'm a firm believer in "Everything happens for a reason". I'm so glad you were present to experience such an act of kindness.

There are good people out out there!

Welcome to the gang at Lachesis Publishing and much success to you in life and your new book.

Vana Roth - A Nation of Expendables

Kim Smith said...

wow. this left me stunned, speechless, and crying at my desk--I have been moaning and groaning about my plight for a couple of days... and wow, this really takes my eyes off of me and my piddly problems and makes me realize that we all should be that guy. Hugs S- we bear the burdens of all our friends and we are here if you need us.


s.w. vaughn said...

Vana, how cool to see you here! Thank you. I also believe everything happens for a reason... my grandmother always said that, and grandmothers are never wrong.

Kim, thank you - I think there's a little bit of that man in all of us, and we can all do great things.

(((hugs))) back to everyone!

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Awww, SW. You touched my heart with this one. I wish I could've known or at least met that man. I wonder if he was bringing the cheeseburgers to a nursing home, or a group of young athletes who just lot (or won) a game, or an AA meeting, or ... who knows? But we do know that this man is a saint and wonderful spirit, who saw a need and impulsively answered it. Wow. It's so humbling.... Thank you, dear SW for posting this!

Emmy Ellis said...

ARGH! So you made me cry, missus!

Hope you are well, my friend.


s.w. vaughn said...

Aaron, you know, he might have been bringing them to a high school team! There was a game or two going on at the school, and that's when we're busiest.

MICHELLE!!! (((hugs))) So glad to see you here. We must catch up!

James Goodman said...

That is a truly touching story (and tribute). Just when our faith in humanity dims to the point of extinction, someone like this comes along and rekindles the fire.

Thank you for sharing the experience so it might rekindle our faith as well.

s.w. vaughn said...

My pleasure, James! That was my intent in posting this - to let people know that we're not hopeless just yet. Sometimes, it's hard to believe. :-)

Julie Ann Shapiro said...

This story is so beautiful, humbling and inspiring. On Sunday I was driving around running errands and stressing out about the usual...juggling writing, book promotions and the paying job stuff. It was one of those amazing sunny days and my feet were sandy from a walk on the beach, which should have calmed me down. I sat in traffic at a red light and saw a man in his fifties with a card board sign, "Please help." He looked so frustrated and like anyone's next door neighbor. I glanced at the bag of almonds on the front seat of my car and unrolled the window. I gave them to the man. He thanked me and said, 'God bless,' and the every day struggles of my life just seemed so small.

Technochic said...

S. W. Vaughn - THAT IS TRULY WONDERFUL!!! I have always tried to help my fellow beings when I can (even when I was having had times myself) as I know there is always someone somewhere who is much worse off than I am -- call it Karma or just human kindness I truly believe that what comes around, goes around and we can all deal with anything as long as you keep a good sense of humor! The only bummer is that there aren't more people out there doing this kind of thing all the time - so that this story wouldn't be so unusual or make people react with such surprise.

Marta Stephens said...

SW, I'm posting this for a dear friend of mine who read your article but wasn't able to log into Blog.

"I enjoyed reading this very well written prose. It has a lovely warmth that sends out a message telling us never to lose faith in the kindness of others. I like the writer's style, which is really easy to read and beautifully descriptive. I like the way we are shown that one person's kindness is like ripples in a pool that can reach out to us all."

Best wishes from,
Mari Lyons in England

s.w. vaughn said...

Julie: Thank you - and thank you for sharing your story, as well. So glad you reacted to the man with the sign the way you did, instead of the way most people do (which is usually to ignore them, or worse...)

Technochic: Absolutely! I use the term karma all the time...and it is truly sad things like this don't happen enough to make it commonplace.

Marta, thanks for posting Mari's comment, and please extend my thanks to her.

Kenna Coltman said...

SW - I've been fortunate enough to be on both the receiving end (this week, as a matter of fact) and giving end of kindness such as this. For the record, it feels good both ways!

Thanks for the inspiring post!


Beverly Stowe McClure said...

I agree. There are angels among us. This man proves it. He has stars in his crown.

Ylanne S. said...

Absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing this touching story with us. I was very moved by what you wrote, and it is incredibly encouraging and reassuring that there is still good in this terrible and tired world...You are very blessed and I have been blessed because of your story.

Unknown said...

what a lovely, heartwarming story...ty so much for sharing it. it made me feel good to read it. i hope your book does really well, too :).

Susan Sparkman said...

The article was very moving; Your dedication gave me chill bumps; Both were wonderfully written!
Thank you for giving us this story.

Deborah J Ledford said...

What an amazing story, S.W. Your kind spirit in sharing this story proves that you worthy of success. I hope to read this dedication in print soon.

s.w. vaughn said...

Thanks so much, everyone. I'm so glad to be able to share this story with you.