Sensory overload in public places is all-too-common for those on the spectrum. It can often make going out to dinner as a family stressful, as it’s impossible to control the stimuli coming in.
When Jamie Heustess went out to eat with her husband, Chris, and their son, Ian, at a local Cracker Barrel in Pooler, GA, their meal was cut short for this very reason. Ian, exhausted and overwhelmed, had a meltdown at the restaurant before they had even ordered their food. He has autism, and had already experienced a very busy day. He was ready to go home.
So Chris took Ian home in his car while Jamie placed an order of food to-go with the waitress, Kailyn, breaking down as she explained why her family had to leave.
What happened next touched her heart so much that she shared it on social media, where it garnered thousands of likes, shares, and comments.
Stories like this are so inspirational. As a community, when we see one of our own having a tough time, we need to rally around them and support them. Kailyn didn’t know the Heusteses, and she could have simply taken Jamie’s order, brought her the bill, and moved on.
But she saw someone whose heart was hurting and reached out with words of encouragement and a small but powerful act of kindness. It was just what Jamie needed to lift her spirits back up again.
Here’s the story in Jamie’s own words:
I had a good cry walking out of our local Cracker Barrel in Pooler, GA, this evening…
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, Walmart…
His breaking point was a 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.
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 it.
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.
There was a piece of paper stapled to my bag. I thought it was the receipt… no… it was something far more precious.
In the midst of my own meltdown she reached out with words of encouragement and a kind heart. I am very thankful.
The note read, “Your child is amazing. Mommy, be strong. Keep your head up. You are doing a great job. Have a great night. Your server, Kailyn.”
Later on, Jamie added a little more to the story…
Little did I know this was TRULY a collaboration and work of love between two dedicated employees, Kailyn & her manager, James.
While Kailyn didn’t have enough tips to cover right then, she was sure she would by end of shift.
Her manager took care of the bill after learning about her actions…
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.
C. Dixon likes to read, sing, eat, drink, write, and other verbs. She enjoys cavorting around the country to visit loved ones and experience new places, but especially likes to be at home with her husband, son, and dog.