“Thank you for your kindness and humility,” read the note attached to a receipt that included a $3,000 tip for a meal that cost $43.50. “My teacher in middle school had such a difficult experience a few years ago which has sparked me to do this…”
That teacher was Richard Specht, a science instructor at Great Hollow Middle School on Long Island’s north shore.
In 2012, as Hurricane Sandy was approaching the East Coast, Specht and his wife, Samantha, were preparing their home for the storm. As they worked to secure their house, their 22-month-old child, Rees, tragically drowned in a pond in their backyard.
An accident like this can happen in seconds, but the tragedy will leave a mark for a lifetime. The Spechts were understandably devastated, but they were also moved by the loving gestures of support they received from their community of friends and family.
“Nobody would let us do anything to repay them back,” Samantha Specht told New York’s CBS 2 about six months after the tragedy. “We figured, well, if you’re not going to accept us, then we’re going to do something for somebody else.”
The Spechts created little cards encouraging individuals to perform random acts of kindness in their son’s name. Their principle was that they could cultivate kindness in the world by paying it forward. Eventually these simple cards would evolve into a book, a website, and even a scholarship fund, but the idea had humble beginnings.
One of their earliest experiments with this card was paying for a stranger’s pizza at a local restaurant. They had the waitress pass the card on to the other patron in hopes that the generosity would continue.
Little did they know how far that gesture would go. Two years after they started deploying these “pay it forward” cards, a New York City waitress received this $3,000 tip, but there were three conditions:
“My only requirements,” the note read, “are: 1) Go to [ReesSpechtLife.com] and learn. 2) Don’t let pay it forward end with you. 3) Since it is about the idea and not about you or me, if you decide to share this please don’t use either of our names!”
The note ends, “Thank you for being around for all of my shows off and on Broadway. I hope that one day someone gives as much love and happiness into the world as you! – Much love…”
The waitress has abided by the conditions and remains anonymous, as does her benefactor. The waitress went to the website and reached out to Richard and Samantha, who were over the moon to learn about how far their son’s story had traveled.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Mr. Specht told Patch, reflecting on the email. “I started crying. There are pictures of my son everywhere and I was just looking at them saying ’I can’t believe this is something that you helped to inspire.’”
“It’s every parent’s nightmare to lose a child,” Richard Specht told CBS 2 back in 2013. “The only way to counter this is with an equally strong positive.”
While the deepest of condolences are due to the Specht family, congratulations are also in order for turning their nightmare into a beautiful dream come true for this waitress. Here’s hoping this chain reaction of generosity never ends.