When Sean Whalen was a young kid, he saw firsthand the bitterness of divorce.
After his parents got into a fight, his mom took Sean and his brother to a hotel for the night. When they got back home the next day, their dad had changed the locks.
A police escort allowed them 10 minutes to grab the necessities. No toys, games, or even pets – only the bare minimum.
They had nothing.
In that horrible situation, though, Sean watched his mom.
He watched how hard she worked to support their little family.
He watched as she never gave up, no matter how hard things got or how exhausted she was.
He watched her get on her knees each night and beg God for the strength to do it all again.
He watched, and he never forgot.
Now Sean is grown and is a single parent himself. After losing everything in the recession, he had to put everything on the line to get his life back.
Now he understands what his mother went through for so many difficult years.
Recently, Sean took his son out to eat at one of their favorite restaurants. As they sat at their table, they struck up a conversation with their waitress, who they soon learned was a single mother.
As they talked, Sean couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something familiar about this woman.
Then it hit him – she reminded him of his mother.
Moved to help her, Sean left a $100 tip on his $26 bill. Not enough to change her life forever, he said, but something to brighten her night and give her strength to keep going.
Later on, Sean sat down and wrote out some of his thoughts about the special encounter and his own past, and his poignant words have gone on to inspire thousands:
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 etc.
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 loaded up all the clothes I could fit into the bag, and that was the last time I ever stepped foot into the house I was raised in.
No baseball trophies.
None of my 10,000 baseball cards.
None of my stuff.
Hell, I left my pet turtle.
Me, mom and my little brother moved into a little condo and didn’t have jack shit.
People from the church brought over pots, pans, couches, beds, and food.
My dad cashed out the bank and literally left my mom with the money in her pocket.
Not a damn thing she could do.
No family around.
No real support other than strangers from church.
I only began to realize what mom went through working multiple jobs when I became a single parent.
I never understood when I was younger the grind and effort she put in for me and my little brother.
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.
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 remember vividly walking past her room countless nights seeing her on her knees praying.
I can only fathom what those conversations were like between her and God.
I can only fathom the amount of tears that poured down this sweet woman’s face as she pleaded with God for a break.
I have felt some intense pain in my day.
I’ve questioned many things, but this single mom with two boys never gave up.
She never one time 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.
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.
To hopefully be able to provide the things for her kids that will put a smile on their face.
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.
I can’t even begin to understand what that must be like for some moms.
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.
She 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.
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