Eating out with your family is supposed to be a nice way to celebrate an event, enjoy a good meal, or simply sit down and spend time together with friends or family. For one mother named Jamie Mathews Heustess, she had just had a long day with her family full of fun and special moments. Her son had thoroughly enjoyed himself and she wanted to finish the nice day they had had together by having a good dinner with him. However, as happens with small children, her little son decided he was tired and hungry and wanted the world to know. As she sat at the table with her son, and he began to get upset and let his frustration out she found herself worried that her server for the evening would say something about his behavior. What the server did in regards to Jamie’s son’s behavior was almost unbelievable.
It really stayed with Jamie and that is how it went viral across social media. The reaction of the server was truly astounding. But before we tell you exactly what happened, let’s get to know the protagonist at the center of this story.
Hailing from the city of Pooler in the state of Georgia, Jamie has lived there for a number of years. She is a nurse by trade, with a specialty in neonatal intensive care. While this is a very important job, she is also a mom and a loving wife.
Her husband’s name is Chris and her son’s name is Ian. She regularly splits her time between Memorial Health University Medical Center and her family with both being equally important to her.
Two Years Ago
This story takes place in the spring of 2017 at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant near Jamie, Chris and Ian’s home. The three were starving after paling around all day together but sometimes when Ian is hungry, tired or both, he can get a bit upset and this is due to the fact that he is autistic.
Ian would sometimes become very anxious when he was out in public places for long amounts of time and all of the sensory overload and over stimulation can mean that he needs to be able to relax in a comforting place. Jamie had hoped that Ian was feeling up to dinner however as it wasn’t so comfortable for him, she became concerned that the other patrons of the restaurant could complain.
Time To Go
Once Ian began to become visibly upset, Jamie and Chris knew it was time for the family to go home and relax. They had already sent in their drink order but Chris offered to take Ian home so Jamie could enjoy some alone time at the restaurant, as working and mothering is a full-time job.
As Jamie sat there she waited for the server to come over and ask her to leave. She expected them to not be understanding of the challenges that her son faced and prepared herself for an uncomfortable conversation.
Kailyn was the server on duty in Jamie’s section of Cracker Barrel that night and could see the difficulties that the little family was having. Kailyn was concerned about the family and asked them if they needed something several times.
Jamie just looked at her and explained that she would be staying but that her husband took her son home because being out in public for so long had overwhelmed him and he needed a safe and quiet space to de-stress from the day and regain his equilibrium. Jamie felt like she had to justify what had just happened and explain her family dynamic to this virtual stranger.
A Bit Too Much
It had been such a great day prior to this restaurant experience. Jamie felt like maybe she had just expected too much from Ian and it was her fault for not taking him home sooner. She was also worried about the judgment of other restaurant patrons not wanting them to think she is a bad parent because they did not understand the situation.
As she tried to convey all of these messages to Kailyn she burst into tears. Now, she could not control her emotions which were the exact opposite of what she was hoping to achieve by explaining her situation.
As Kailyn waited patiently for Jamie to let it all out, she simply looked at her and mentioned that she would make sure Jamie got her food as quickly as possible. She was sympathetic but not overly so, or so it seemed.
It appeared like she understood the situation and did not want to draw any more attention to Jamie and her personal woes. A quarter of an hour later she returned with Jamie’s meal and said that she did not need to pay.
This small act of kindness from a perfect stranger pushed Jamie over the edge once more and she found herself crying. She could not believe that after everything and the ‘scene’ that her son had made, that this waitress wanted to pay it forward and look after her in her time of need.
She was so used to looking after others that it was nice to have someone just look after her, with no strings attached.
Now that Jamie had her to-go bag she was ready to return home to her husband and child and hopefully find things a bit more settled. She looked down at her bag and did not see anything unusual about it until a flash of paper caught her eye.
Kailyn had attached a note to the bag which said the most extraordinary things. It was important to her that Jamie didn’t feel like she was alone in this situation and that it was a judgment-free zone.
Kailyn could tell that Jamie seemed a bit down in the dumps and needed a pick me up. She knew that a small touch of kindness was all this woman needed to feel a little bit of hope and acceptance for her situation in that exact moment.
So, she gave her what she could: a good meal and a kind note. Jamie took Kailyn’s words to heart, that she was an excellent mother and she did not need to worry about that.
A Position Of Hope
The short note meant so much to Jamie that she decided to cherish it. She wanted to be able to gaze upon it whenever she felt like she needed a pick me up.
The perfect spot in her home was a found, one where she was guaranteed to be able to look upon it every day: the fridge. Using a cut magnet she stuck it up in a place of honor for everyone to see. This kind gesture, which was so small was exactly what she needed.
When it comes to who paid for the meal it was not as straightforward as Jamie had been led to believe. Kailyn had planned to use her tips from the evening to cover the costs of the meal.
Her manager would not let her, instead, he decided that the restaurant would absorb the cost of the meal because they all appreciated the fact that Jamie needed some support and they were able to provide it in this small way.
Sharing Is Caring
The whole event made Jamie feel like the world needed to know what kind of person Kailyn and the team at Cracker Barrel was. She made the executive decision to share what Kailyn did and the note she wrote with a Facebook group called Love What Matters.
As the post was shared and seen by the members it began to blow up on social media causing an outcry of love and support for this mom and her helping hand, Kailyn.
When asked about the situation and how Kailyn dealt with it all, Jamie said, “What really resonates with me [about Kailyn] is that someone that is working very hard to provide for her son and doesn’t have a whole lot was more than willing and ready to give all she had at the time to another person.”
“That to me is a sign of all that is good and compassionate in this world. It shows what a big heart Kailyn has.”
In the two years since Kailyn first posted this store on Facebook, it has blown up across all social media platforms. Over 1,300 people have gone on to share it and over 18,000 different reactions have been regarded.
The outpour of love and support from every corner of the world has made Jamie realize that she is not alone in the world and that many other parents with autistic children experience similar events as well.
Taking to Facebook, Jamie wrote “I had a good cry walking out of our local Cracker Barrel in Pooler, GA. I had posted earlier about the trials and adventures of trying to have a dinner out when you have a child with autism. It is truly hit or miss…most days we do OK.”
“After Chris and Ian left, our waitress came to ask if we were ordering. This was probably her 5th or 6th time stopping by the table. I said yes, a to go order, just for me.”
“She asked if my husband or son wanted anything and I said no, my husband took our son home to reduce stimuli around him. I told her Ian was autistic and had had a long day, awards, karate, Wal-Mart. His breaking point was the Nemo/Dory toy-that was neither of those characters.”
“By this time I was crying and having a moment, not because I was embarrassed that my son is autistic, but because he is a good kid and I didn’t want anyone to think he was just a spoiled kid being a brat.”
Kinder Then Necessary
“Our server was gracious and sweet. She said it was not a problem, that she would get my order in quickly. I sat quietly and made a post to my page about the realities of autism that you never quite know until you experience them.”
This is an important reminder to everyone to be much kinder than what we sometimes can be.
“About 15 minutes later, out comes my server with my bag of dinner. She smiled and told me that my dinner had been taken care of, no need for payment. I started crying all over again.”
“I asked if she was sure and she reassured me it was taken care of, not to worry. I cried walking out, sure the other customers and employees thought I was crazy.”
What Else Did She Say?
Continuing Jamie said how she will be reminded of the moment as she has placed the note in her house, “She left me the words I needed to hear, that I think EVERY MOM needs to hear.”
“Their caring and thoughtfulness did not go unnoticed… My note from Kailyn is now hanging on my fridge, for those moments I need to be reminded of the kindness of strangers.”
Autism is actually a disorder that can be placed on a spectrum with some cases being mild and others being more severe. Depending on the severity, some children can be more high functioning than others and it is estimated that around 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with autism which is a fairly significant number.
Due to this, there is a larger understanding of it as more and more people know someone or have a child with it.
It is common for parents to feel lost or worried that they will be judged by other people around them for seeming to lack control of the situation and their child.
This idea stems from the fact that other people are ignorant and unable to tell that a child is suffering from this disorder rather than just throwing a tantrum. That is why this story is so important. It draws attention to the shift in public perception.
A lack of support is what a lot of parents can feel in situations or helplessness when their autistic child becomes overstimulated or upset by something that has occurred in their vicinity.
The empathy of Kailyn and the Cracker Barrel staff shows that their establishment wants to foster a sense of community with their customers and social inclusion. This is extremely important and the publicity has given them a good name.
While this story was shared by Jamie to show that small acts of kindness do exist in many places and to demonstrate what an empathetic person Kailyn is, it should also be taken as a suggestion for other people and restaurants.
Just because a situation may look one way the reality could be vastly different and providing an environment of understanding can truly help someone who is experiencing some personal difficulties.
The takeaway from Jamie and Kailyn’s story is that fostering a sense of camaraderie and community is what makes one whole. In the future, the team at Cracker Barrel will continue to recognize that families are not dealing with spoiled children but potentially children suffering from underlying disorders.
This is a model that many other restaurants can try and follow. It may even be beneficial for them to provide training in situational awareness.
From the outside looking in, Ian could have appeared to be like any other child who has been spoiled by his parents and therefore is throwing a tantrum because he is not getting his way.
This was one of Jamie’s greatest fears: that she would be seen as a bad parent. This was obviously not the case but if one did not know better they could have the potential to think this. It was great that Kailyn defied expectations.
The Present Day
This viral post has continued to be shared and who knows how many shares it will have by the time another act of kindness takes center stage. Jamie’s Instagram account details a lot of what happened and you can check it out to find out more about her family life and what has gone on in the years since she received her kind note from Kailyn.
Ian continues to do well, practice karate and go on adventures with his parents.
Knowing When To Leave
A lot of comments have been posted regarding this story and the general consensus is that people are happy to hear that these lucky parents knew when their son had had enough and needed to be removed from the restaurant.
It was in no way a punishment and not because they were embarrassed but because they were so in-tune with what he needed. One commenter even said it is stories like this that “Make America Great Again.”
Praise For Kailyn
The other comments focus on praising Kailyn for her understanding and people hope that if they are in a similar situation the servers around them will be just as forgiving and helpful.
Going forward Kailyn plans to always try to understand the situation and do her best. People still come up to her and tell her what an awesome thing it is that she did. Always be kind, you never know who needs it.
While parents of autistic children know what the daily struggles are, it is the support system around them that they truly need. Anyone who has to care for someone needs their own form of support and that is what this story truly shows.
The moral is that if you see someone in need or upset and you have it in your power to lend a helping hand or an ear to listen you should do it. After all, you never know when you might need some help.