Going through a traumatic event as a child is something that sticks with you your entire life. It might seem that divorce is commonplace these days, but the way that children carry the baggage of their parents' breakup with them can have long-lasting effects on their own relationships, and how they perceive the world.
When Sean Whalen was a kid, he went through something awful. After months of fighting, his father kicked his mother and his entire family out of the house -- and that was only the beginning of his family's hardship. With few resources and mouths to feed, it was Sean's mom who had to pick up the pieces -- and she did exactly that, and then some.
Influenced by her resilience, Sean has carried the lessons his mom taught him into his own experience as a parent. In fact, it's what inspired him to do something for a working waitress he encountered at a restaurant. When he saw her, memories of his mom and her challenges came flooding back to him, and what he did next is a direct result of that. See Sean's story, told in his own words, below.
"The day my parents split up is forever etched in my mind. Me and dad get into a big fight. Me, mom and my little brother take off cause my dad is going nuts."
"We stayed at a hotel that night. When we came back the next day my dad had changed the locks. I watched my mom plead with him through the door to let us in to get clothes. He wouldn't. We had to go back later that day with a police escort. I'll never forget the cops handing me a black trash bag saying I had 10 minutes to take the necessities."
"I only began to realize what mom went through working multiple jobs when I became a single parent."
"She hustled. She worked her ass off to just get by. She did everything she could so that my brother and I had everything we ever wanted. But she worked man. Hard. I still to this day don't know how she did it. I have no idea how she didn't throw in the towel at times. I would have."
"I've questioned many things, but this single mom with two boys never gave up."
"Tonight as my son and I sat at this little crappy Chinese joint we love, there was a new waitress. She stuck out like a sore thumb. The owners are Chinese. The workers are Chinese. And this little white waitress."
"She was absolutely fantastic and kept complimenting my son on his manners. We ate our dinner. Over small talk and water refills, I got the sense that this single mom didn't want to be there, but had to be there and she was doing her best to smile. It tore my heart out. I thought of my mom, and I saw the same hustle in this woman that I saw in my mom. A single mom. Maybe by choice. Maybe not. But working on a Wednesday night to ensure she can put food on the table and shoes on the kids feet. Not for opulence. Not for status. But to live."
"I empathized for her. I felt her pain. I kept thinking of my mom and how difficult it is for a single woman to go from home maker, to bread winner."
The idea came to him while they were eating, and he wanted to make sure to make the waitress smile before they left.
As you can see, this is far more than the average for a waitress -- but Sean felt like it was a small price to pay to honor this hard-working woman.
But we're assuming that she was taken aback -- it's not every day that people are this generous to service industry workers.
"I know my tip won't pay her rent. I know my tip won't pay for kids braces. I know my tip won't keep the fridge full. But I hoped tonight in some way it might put a smile on her face, and she can go home to her babies happier than when she left them."
"I don't know her whole story. I don't need to. I felt tonight that maybe along the way someone did this for my mom, and that's what kept her going on nights she wanted to quit. I don't know. I'll likely never know. But I do know this. I have been blessed beyond measure, and my mother paved the way for my persistence."
"My mom showed me how to bounce back. She showed me what work and effort is. I hope this small gesture with my son tonight brightens this woman's life so she can wake up tomorrow and fight a good fight. Single moms who grind.... RESPECT."
"You are beautiful and your posterity will learn from your efforts. They are watching you. Just as I watched my mom. Mom I love you. You are my hero."