The Kindness of Strangers

My heart was warmed last night, and I’d like to tell you why.

Our son, Josh, is on the autism spectrum and, at age 26, still lives at home with his dad and me.  We are fortunate in that he is able to drive himself places, which gives him at least some form of independence.  He loves eating out and recently has been doing so on average once a day to the point where I’ve had to beg him to have a family dinner once in a while.  However, once I realized that this is his main source of socialization, I decided to allow him this indulgence.

He has several favorite restaurants, places he can go where the waitresses all know him and take good care of him.  They don’t mind hearing about his favorite TV shows or talking about the upcoming Yu-Gi-Oh convention even though, like us, they’ve participated in the same conversation many, many times before.  Well, maybe they do mind, but they still listen patiently and are friendly, and you can’t ask for more than that!  One of his preferred places to eat is at a Japanese restaurant which has a hibachi.  He likes the food there, but I think he also likes the community feeling of sitting around the hibachi table and conversing with others.  He went there last night.

As usual, when he got back, I asked him about his evening.  Did you enjoy your dinner?  Did you talk with anyone?  He offered that he had met a family sitting with him at the hibachi, and they were really nice.  He was thrilled that the son was also a Yu-Gi-Oh fan and told me that the daughter, like him, was on certain medications to help her with depression and anxiety.  I was very happy to hear that he had found some interesting dinner companions.  Then I asked where his receipt was so that I could debit it out of his account, and what he said absolutely floored me.

He told me Jim (the dad) had paid for his dinner!  He didn’t even know he had done that until he went to leave and pay, and they told him it was already paid.  Now, I know what he ordered came to around $30, so this was not a small gesture on their part!  I don’t know if Jim has any connection to the autism community (Josh did tell him he was on the spectrum and that his mom worked in the field), but whatever it was that caused him to honor my son in this way, I am eternally grateful.

This is all I know about Jim and his family, so I doubt if I will ever get the chance to thank him in person; if I could, I would tell him how my son has had to endure the stares and snide remarks of other strangers over the years…people who didn’t even know him but made snap decisions based on the way he talked or acted.  I would tell him about the times he was bullied at school for just being himself, and I would thank him for recognizing the person he really is…a sweet, warm, funny human being who thinks everyone should be as enthusiastic about his passions as he is!  Thanks, Jim, for not only listening to him, but for acknowledging his worth!  His dad and I will never forget your generosity and, yes, we will pay it forward.

There has been so much hateful rhetoric recently on the TV and online that we sometimes forget that the majority of people in this world are inherently good, decent folks who try to do the right thing and are kind to their fellow man.  I think I needed this incident to remind me of that.  Maybe we all need that reminder from time to time.

Peace and Love,


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