One morning in July 2016, Nyesha Wingate was enjoying breakfast at a restaurant with her young son. It was nothing unusual; it was a regular occurrence. However, when she tried to pay at the end of the meal, things started to get weird. Because when the waiter brought Wingate the check, he tore it up in front of her. Then a man she’d never seen before approached, and he was on the verge of tears.
By all appearances, Wingate leads a very ordinary life. Though she is originally from San Bernardino in California, she now lives with her husband, Christopher, in Houston, Texas. Married in 2014, they have a 21-month-old son, Nehemiah.
To help support her family, Wingate works hard at her ordinary job at a credit union. Together, she and her husband have a very ordinary goal of living debt-free. And yet, although they have a clear financial target, they never deny themselves very ordinary treats.
So it was, then, that July 14, 2016, was perhaps another ordinary morning for Wingate and her then-one-year-old son. As they often did, they stopped by the local Cracker Barrel for breakfast. An ordinary restaurant for ordinary people, but a treat nonetheless.
The Wingates might have enjoyed a meal of eggs, sausage and hash browns, perhaps with some bacon. Or maybe they chose pancakes, possibly even oatmeal. Whatever they ordered, it was nothing more than regular, Southern-style home-cooked food.
As Wingate ate breakfast with her son, however, she was unaware that something odd was happening close by. Unbeknown to her, she had caught the eye of a stranger, and the mom’s ordinary day was about to take an extraordinary turn.
After Wingate and her son finished their meals, she prepared to pay. The waiter approached her table – and only then did she start to realize that something wasn’t quite right.
The waiter, it seemed, had a look on his face that the mom couldn’t quite place. Wingate was already confused about what was going on, but what the waiter did next baffled her. He pulled out the check and did something completely unexpected.
Instead of handing her the check, the waiter tore it up right before her eyes. To add to her confusion, he told her that their meals had already been paid for. Then a gobsmacked Wingate noticed a man approaching. Who was he? What did he want?
The man walking toward the mom and her son was somewhat older. His hair was gray, and he wore a white T-shirt and pale pants that appeared to be smeared with dirt. He wasn’t someone Wingate knew, but she noticed something else as he got closer.
As the stranger approached, Wingate noticed that he was emotional to the point of having tears in his eyes. Not understanding what was happening, Wingate lost her unease while the man gained his composure, and she allowed him to explain what was going on.
In Wingate’s words written on Facebook, “I was blessed this morning as the waiter at Cracker Barrel came [and] ripped up my check and said, ‘This has been paid for!’ Then this amazing gentleman came up to me with tears in his eyes.”
According to the Facebook post, the man told Wingate, “We really have to get over all this tension in America, and I have been looking for ways that I can put it in to action.” The man was likely referring to several incidents across the U.S. in July 2016 that involved police and black citizens.
In a two-day period in early July 2016, for instance, police fatally shot two black men in separate incidents. Firstly, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and then Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota. The very next day, a Black Lives Matter rally was organized in Dallas, Texas. However, it ended in more tragedy.
On July 7, 2016, the Dallas Black Lives Matter march had been a peaceful protest. As the rally drew to a close, however, Micah Xavier Johnson started shooting at a group of police officers, killing five and wounding a further seven officers and two bystanders. Johnson himself was later killed by a bomb delivered by a robot.
Around that time, tensions had been particularly high within black communities across the country. Presumably because of this, the kindly stranger, named only as Al, had been looking for ways to reach out to his black neighbors. It was his way of showing support and solidarity with the black community.
Wingate wrote, “I gave him the biggest hug and thanked him! How can we hate someone made by a perfect and loving God? I was more blessed by his presence and conversation [than] the paid for meal! Thanks Al! May God bless America with more people like you!”
Of course, this is not the only incident showing the generosity of strangers in tense times. In August 2016 a friendly elderly couple settled the check of a man in Willoughby, Ohio, after seeing him entertaining his young son in their local Cracker Barrel. They noted, “We need more black dads like you.”
Similarly, in January 2017 waitress Rosalynd Harris was blown away by the generosity of complete strangers. Skeptical of serving a group of Trump supporters shortly after the president’s inauguration, she was stunned when they left her a tip of $450 on a $72.60 check. With it, too, was a note of unity.
This, then, is just one wonderful and moving example of how the kindness of strangers can unite people, regardless of race or background. Wingate further commented, “This man was one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. I pray God blesses him!”