In Texas, a Waffle House waitress headed into work for her shift just as she did every day. Nothing was special about the day – it was just any regular morning. Or so the waitress thought. In just hours, a chain of events would take place and change her life, which she couldn't have known as she went about with her tasks and serving her customers their coffee and breakfast.
But Something Was Different On This Day
This particular Waffle House, in La Marque, Texas, had quite a few regular customers. One of them was a woman named Laura Wolf. She frequently stopped into the restaurant for a cup of coffee and conversation with the Waffle House staff.
Most of her visits to the restaurant were pretty routine. But today, March 3, 2018, was destined to be different than any other day she'd stopped in for her breakfast. Laura saw something that not only caught her attention, but caused her to push breakfast aside and reach for her phone. She started to take photos of a woman, who had no idea that anyone was recording her actions.
Why Were There So Many People At The Waffle House?
Even before something prompted Laura to start filming a waitress, another thing had seemed odd to Laura on this day. Although the La Marque Waffle House usually stayed pretty busy, today it was much more crowded than usual. In fact, it almost seemed as if a large number of the town's 16,000 residents were there.
The servers scrambled to keep up with all the breakfast orders during the morning rush and Laura kept her eye on all of them.
Laura Watched The Waitress
As a regular visitor to this particular Waffle House, Laura Wolf had gotten to know some of the employees' names. One of the waitresses who was working on this especially busy morning was a woman named Evoni Williams. She was a long-time employee at the restaurant, so she was well-known to her customers as a hard worker.
Just 18 years old, Evoni dedicated herself to saving up money for college. The long hours at Waffle House were helping, but she hadn’t been able to save very much yet.
What A Busy Day!
Evoni was pretty excited that the restaurant was so crowded – after all, tips are how a server makes the majority of their pay. And more customers naturally means more tips. She got down to business, taking orders and delivering up hot plates of food.
Unfortunately, the restaurant was a little understaffed on this busy day, so Evoni had to hustle even more to cover her duties and keep up with everything. She was really running around to get things done today, but as she dropped off an order at one table, she noticed something that distracted her for a moment.
What Had She Noticed?
It was a particular customer that had drawn Evoni's attention as she served breakfast to a table of hungry patrons. She’d seen him at the restaurant several times and he usually visited at least once every week. He was definitely a regular.
The customer was a 78-year old man named Adrien, but everyone used the affectionate nickname "Mr. Karaoke" instead. The Waffle House staff knew that he had some health problems and he was now carrying an oxygen tank with him. What Evoni did next was unexpected.
Adrien Flags Evoni Down
Evoni was moving around non-stop to keep up with the fast pace at Waffle House that crowded day. She didn't really have any time to stop and take a break. Finally, she felt like she was getting caught up on all her duties. Just then, Adrien attempted to get her attention.
She finally noticed Adrien’s efforts to be noticed, so she walked over to the bar area where he was sitting. The elderly man started whispering to her, in a quiet voice so no one else could overhear. Remember that Evoni did not know that she was being recorded by another customer who had noticed this interaction. She had no idea she was on camera.
The Camera Sees It All
Laura Wolf was seated in a booth located directly across from where Evoni and Adrien were having their private conversation. She couldn't hear what they were talking about and she leaned in a little closer to see if she could catch a snippet of the interaction.
Laura thought the man looked to be a little bit embarrassed as he talked to Evoni. Sensing that something incredible was taking place, it was then that Laura took out her camera and started filming.
Difficult To Understand
During the breakfast rush at a crowded Waffle House, it can be a challenge to hear anyone's voice above the din. Especially the voice of an old man who was on oxygen for medical reasons.
Evoni leaned in and tried her hardest to understand Adrien, but one of the line cooks noticed that she was holding things up, something the restaurant couldn’t afford on a busy day. Despite his yelling to get her attention, she ignored him and continued to listen to Adrien.
Was He Upset With His Food?
At first, Evoni thought that regular customer Adrien might have had a complaint about his food. After all, that's one of the most common reasons for a diner to flag down their server. In fact, after quietly whispering something to her, the old man began to push his plate of food her way.
Evoni took the plate, loaded up with ham, toast, home fries, and scrambled eggs, and pushed it right back to him. What was going on?
Someone Was Watching
It might sound like this interaction was taking a long time, but the entire event was only a minute or so of Evoni's busy morning. She was completely focused on Adrien during this brief moment. All thoughts of the packed restaurant and its many hungry customers left her mind temporarily as she listened to the elderly man speak.
Laura was still filming the interaction, of course, but there was another recording being made as well!
The Security Camera
In a busy restaurant like Waffle House, security cameras are increasingly important. This particular location did have a CCTV security camera set up. At the same time Laura was watching the interaction take place, the camera, hanging from the ceiling, was also recording everything that happened.
The silent camera, barely noticed by anyone, gave a bird's eye shot of everything happening between Evoni and Adrien on that fateful day at a Waffle House.
Laura Decided To Post The Video Publicly
Laura Wolf was speechless after she witnessed the scene that had just played out in front of her. She now had several photos of Evoni and Adrien as the waitress returned his breakfast plate to him.
She struggled with what to do with the photo evidence, and eventually decided to post it to her Facebook account. She shared it, not having a clue how she was about to change Evoni's life.
It All Started With A Question
The astonishing scene that Laura Wolf had just watched and recorded all started when Adrien flagged down waitress Evoni. The man was experiencing a decline in his health and was not able to perform personal tasks the way he used to be able to.
Laura thought he had seemed embarrassed or self-conscious when he talked to Evoni. It turned out that he needed assistance cutting his breakfast ham. "I can hold a fork fine and dandy," Adrien told ABC News. “But to cut it looks like I'm going to stab somebody,” he continued. This is what he had asked of Evoni – for help cutting his food.
Helping Someone In Need
Later, Evoni talked about the scene at the Waffle House on that fateful morning. "He was like, 'My hands are not functioning too well,'" she said of Adrien's request. She had to really lean in order to hear his question.
“He needed me to cut his food for him, so I did,” she told ABC News. Evoni took his food, cut the ham into, bite-sized pieces and pushed it all back over to him. This was pretty routine for a waitress to do with a regular customer, so Evoni went about her regular day and didn’t much of it. For now.
Laura's Facebook Post Was Already Making Waves
Laura felt strongly that she wanted to get the story out about what she had just witnessed. She figured Facebook would be the best place to share her photos. Here's what she posted. "I don’t know her name but I heard this elderly man tell her his hands don’t work too good."
Laura went on, “He was also on oxygen and struggling to breathe. Without hesitation, she took his plate and began cutting up his ham. This may seem small but to him, I’m sure it was huge. I’m thankful to have seen this act of kindness and caring at the start of my day while everything in this world seems so negative.” The post instantly affected everyone who saw it.
She Never Expected To Go Viral
Even while she was still at the Waffle House, Laura's post started to get some major attention. Her phone was lighting up with alerts left and right. People shared positive things about Evoni, and many of them shared Laura’s post on their own accounts. Word rapidly began to spread of this woman’s kind deed.
"If we could all be like this waitress and take time to offer a lending hand…" was how Laura decided to close her Facebook post. Little did she know what would happen as a result.
Praise For Evoni Was Overwhelming
It didn't take long for Laura’s post to go viral. In just a few days since she first shared it, the photos racked up 90,000 likes and nearly 50,000 shares. People were truly touched by Evoni’s kind act and wanted to share the heartwarming moment with their own friends and family.
Adrien got attention from the post, too, he told ABC News. "Somebody told me two days later that I was very popular because they saw me on Facebook," he said, and joked that “They got a fancy picture of my suspenders in the back.” It seems everyone in the town knew about Evoni and Adrien.
The Mayor Gets Involved
La Marque, Texas's mayor is named Bobby Hocking. When word of Evoni’s good deed reached his office, he instantly wanted to meet her. It was arranged that the meeting would take place at the Waffle House (of course).
The restaurant was filled with cameras for the event, which Evoni had expected. But she had no idea what the mayor had planned for this special event. He wanted to honor her in front of everyone.
The Big Day Arrived
Evoni's big day arrived, and she watched as her place of employment filled with reporters and camera crews. At least this time around, she would be aware that she was being recorded!
The mayor arrived and stood behind the Waffle House bar, right where Evoni had been when she’d helped Adrien with his breakfast that day. And then the mayor announced that he wanted to give a special presentation. He told the gathered crowd and news cameras that he was declaring March 8 as "Evoni 'Nini’ Williams Day" in La Marque. And things were about to get even better for Evoni, who was already in disbelief.
Returning The Favor
As Evoni's story made its rounds on the internet, people wanted to learn more about her. How did this remarkable woman end up working at Waffle House?
People found out that Evoni worked so very hard because she wanted to save enough money to attend college. In a "paying it forward" move, some residents of La Marque set up a GoFundMe account in an effort to raise tuition money so Evoni could go to school. And it turns out that someone very important received news of this fundraising effort.
Many People Got Involved To Help Evoni
More and more people began to donate to the GoFundMe page that had been set up to raise money for Evoni and "pay it forward" so she could attend college. People right from her own town and people across the country donated what they could to the kind Waffle House waitress.
At Texas Southern University in Houston, some staff learned about Evoni and her goal of attending college. They decided to help out in a special way. One of the university's administrators said. “We wanted to reward Evoni’s act of kindness.”
Someone Important Was There That Day
As Evoni learned about the new holiday in her honor that day at Waffle House, she beamed knowing that Adrien and Laura were both there to cheer her on. But there was someone else present that Evoni did not expect in her wildest dreams.
Also there was the president of Texas Southern University! He said that he wanted the chance to meet Evoni and "let her know that good deeds do not go unnoticed, " as he said in an interview later. he later explained in a television interview.
An Unexpected Announcement
After the mayor's presentation of Evoni’s special holiday, it was the president of Texas Southern University’s turn to take his place behind the Waffle House bar. He was about to give the special woman a gift no one could have imagined.
With a jumbo-sized check in hand, the president announced that the school was awarding Evoni a scholarship worth a whopping $16,000! Evoni, and most of the crowd, burst into tears of surprise and joy.
The People Responsible
The folks who helped start this whole thing were especially happy for Evoni. Laura Wolf and Adrien could have had no possible idea the role that they would play in one Waffle House waitress's future.
As she spoke to reporters that day, Laura had this to say. "It was so busy in here, you know? And she actually took the time to stop and hear what he had to say instead of walking past him. It just meant something to me," she explained. And Adrien said that the act meant a lot to him as well.
Just Another Day Of Being Kind For Evoni
Ever humble, Evoni said that she did what anyone else would do if they knew someone was in need. She didn't let the award, the media attention, or even the scholarship go to her head.
As she told local reporters "I don’t know, it was something I would do any other day." But anyone who’s ever been helped by the kindness of a stranger might disagree with her. Evoni is a beautiful example of treating people with kindness.
She Isn't Your Average Waitress
Rosalynd Harris is more than your average waitress, and that's for sure. At 25 years old, she works at Busboys and Poets, located in Washington, D.C., and she knows precisely what she wants from life.
Working at that restaurant is no coincidence, as it promotes social justice like Rosalynd does. She stands up for what she believes in, no matter what. Then, when a group of Texans walked into the restaurant, her moral compass spazzed, and she didn't know how to handle the situation.
The Daily Struggle
While she might generally enjoy working at Busboys and Poets, Harris treats it more like a means to an end. It's not where she wants to end her career. She works two jobs to help pay off the college fees she has while attending school.
Harris doesn't have much time to herself for relaxation or leisurely activities. With so much going on in her life, the last thing she wanted was drama coming from a customer.
Where Things Went Down
The last thing Harris wanted was a customer confrontation, but the moment was approaching where she had no say in the matter. As previously mentioned, Busboys and Poets was a social-justice friendly location that had role models of color plastered across the walls.
You can imagine how Harris felt when a group of men with red caps walked into the building. It wasn't just the place that serves as a crucial element in this story, but the time it happened matters too...
Fighting For Her Rights
The unusual situation took place during the presidential inauguration! Not only that, but it was also when the Women's March took place as well. A lot was going on, and Harris was one of the 500,000 women that showed up to march.
After all the festivities finished, some folks stayed around the city for the week that followed. Jason White and his friends were some of those people that decided to stick around after coming from Texas...
Sticking Out Like A Sore Thumb
During that fateful day at lunchtime, Jason and his pals strolled into the restaurant, and the energy shifted. Immediately the place became silent. Harris and everyone else in the building stared in disbelief.
Stereotyping people usually isn't something Harris does, but two things were certain regarding these new customers. For one, they were from out of town. Secondly, they only came to the country's capital to celebrate the inauguration of the new president.
He Was A Real Patriot
It's never polite to judge a book by the cover, but sometimes your assumptions can be correct, as Harris' were. Jason White and his buddies came from Texas to celebrate the new leader of the free world, happy at the outcome of the election.
White is very patriotic, and he's someone who puts his country first. Looking through that lens, it makes sense that he casually walked around sporting his red cap. Still, there was more than meets the eye about White that Harris didn't know...
Who Was Jason White?
There was more to Jason White than you would guess from a first impression. The 37-year-old is a dentist who's big on family and has a unit of close friends in his circle.
Once he arrived in D.C. with his buddies, they visited several locations, including Arlington Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. While there is more to White than the red hat he had on, he was merely wearing it in the wrong place...
No Hats, Please
Unsurprisingly, the first thing that caught everyone's attention was the red hats White and his friends wore. Harris didn't mention anything to White, but she quietly suggested that he and his pals remove the lids while in the eatery.
"We started getting looks," White said. "I told my friend, you need to take your hat off. I don't want people to think we're coming in here to flaunt. We're just coming here to have lunch."
One Friendly Encounter
Determined not to let anything ruin her mood, Harris proceeded to White's table and gave them all a welcoming smile. They reciprocated the gesture, and things looked to be going great as they started cracking jokes!
"She started laughing when we said we were from West Texas, and she said, 'I can tell you're from the South,'" White said. "I said, 'What's your favorite thing on the menu?' She said the avocado panini is delicious, and I love avocado, so I got that…It was a relief for both of us."
A Very Unique Place
After the two broke the ice, White stared curiously around and asked about the restaurant's history. Harris told them that they named it after the poet Langston Hughes, a prominent figure in African American literature.
According to Harris, the group informed her that they never been to a place like it before. Once she completed taking their orders, Harris let them enjoy their food, and that was the end of that. Nothing crazy happened.
Would You Look At That!
Skip ahead one hour, and White left the restaurant with his friends. They enjoyed their lunch in an environment they've never seen before, so they departed with a positive vibe.
As waitresses do, Harris walked over to their table to clean up and collect any tip they might've left before setting up for the next customers. When she made it to the table, she saw the check covered in words. One of the men had decided to leave a note, so she read it
The Interesting Note
Harris only had to read a couple of words for her to realize that they written especially for her. 'Shocked' was the best way to describe the emotions Harris felt.
The first part of the note read, "We may come from different cultures and backgrounds and may also disagree on certain issues." Harris' interest soared, so she kept on reading. The more she read, the further down her jaw dropped.
An Incredible Smile
Overwhelmed by what White wrote in the first few sentences, it was what came toward the end that genuinely made Harris' eyes glow. Remember, she didn't expect anything of this magnitude coming from someone wearing a red hat.
"If everyone would share a smile and kindness like your beautiful smile, our country will come together as one people," he wrote. "Not race. Not gender. Just American. God bless!" That wasn't the end of it! Harris became utterly shocked by what was at the bottom of the check.
An Incredible Tip
The subtotal for the meal White and his friends feasted on was only $72.60, but Harris couldn't believe that he left her a 625% tip, which came out to $450! A standard 20% tip is something to be happy about, so this was mindblowing.
Harris had never seen anything of this magnitude in her life. White gave her the $450 as a nod to the person he came there to celebrate, the recent leader elected.
White Had An Ephiphany
White remembered looking at all the influential figures that were on the walls of the restaurant. He also thought of how the Women's March and the inauguration coincided with each other, so that's when something clicked.
He figured that those were examples of people expressing the values they had. Like a light bulb appearing over his head, he began to understand how much he had in common with others, including Harris. That's what inspired his generous tip, which left Harris speechless.
At A Loss For Words
As if the note wasn't enough, once you add in the enormous tip, Harris couldn't help but become emotional. There was no doubt that type of tip would help her a ton in her current stage of life.
Working two jobs so she could pay for college meant that extra $450 would be able to do some damage control. "The note was extremely touching and unexpected," she told TODAY. "Of course, the biggest part was definitely the amount of the tip he left."
A Change Of Heart
The kind gesture helped provide Harris with a broader perspective, especially when it came to people who had differing views from hers. She thought that folks like White and his friends, with their red hats, were only interested in taking care of themselves.
"You automatically assume…that they have ideas about you," she said. "But [Jason was] more embracing than even some of my more liberal friends, and there was a real authenticity in our exchange." Harris' views weren't the only ones that changed...
Moved To Tears
The whole event was enough to bring White to tears. He became reflective and thought about what had happened. His thoughts moved made him more emotional than he would have ever imagined.
"As I sat there, I thought about the entire weekend, and I thought I don't know her, she doesn't know me, but if most Americans have a preconceived perception about people, then we’re never going to get better," he said. It was at that moment the dentist got a phone call he wouldn't forget.
A Special Reunion
It didn't take long for this story to catch the attention of millions and put both White and Harris in the limelight. During an interview Harris participated in one day, she decided to give Harris a surprise FaceTime call.
It was the first time they had an interaction since the day they met at the restaurant. They finally had a chance to brief each other on how their lives were going. During the conversation, they both admitted that there was something about the story that people might've misunderstood.
Understanding The Root Of The Gesture
Everything in life isn't black and white. If it were, then there would be fewer misunderstandings between people. Both Harris and White saw that others were taking the story a different way, one that they didn't agree was true.
"I hope that people just don't see it as this white guy helping this black girl," the waitress said. "This gracious gesture came from a place of compassion and love." Jason agreed, saying the following: "It's not about her and me…I just want people to take the example, and stop and think a little bit before they judge people – on all sides."