This story originally appeared at American Web Media.
Holiday shopping always wreaks havoc on the household budget, but single parents often find the expectation of presents particularly stressful. The annual gift-giving extravaganza – and a poorly-timed towing incident that left her with a $735 impound fee — drove one single mother and waitress, Trisha Murphy, to pick up extra shifts at the Denny’s where she worked.
Murphy didn’t initially think much of the three scruffy-looking men who sat down in her section, even though she was slightly dismayed by the rest of the restaurant, which otherwise looked empty. Waitresses pretty much depend on tips, and at this rate it would be basically impossible to pay off her bills and get all of her holiday shopping done.
“Yesterday morning, I was so stressed I could barely function,” she wrote on Facebook. “Most of my Christmas shopping wasn’t done, my car got towed to Bangor (with a $735 bill on its head), and there’s only a week until Christmas. I went into work, racking my brain as to how I was going to pull this off.”
Regardless, Murphy plastered a smile on her face and got to work, cheerfully fending the table’s upcoming questions about Christmas, which she planned to spend with her kids. Some of those queries – including one man’s joke that he might come to her house and “play santa” – felt borderline intrusive, but Murphy managed to keep the conversation “pleasant, yet safely distant.”
Regardless, when it came time to pay, that same man insisted that Murphy cash him out herself, rather than sending the check to the hostess. “He insisted I go to the register and cash him out,” she recalled.
“I thought it a little odd but obliged anyway. When he put his card in, he had a huge, ear to ear, smile. The receipt printed and I almost collapsed!”
For a moment, Trisha thought she might have actually served Santa Clause as she stared in disbelief at the man’s $500 tip. Then the kindly diner smiled and wished her a ‘Merry Christmas’ before leaving.
“Good people do still exist,” Murphy wrote, explaining how the man’s generous tip had essentially saved Christmas for her and her family. “Yesterday was the day I met Santa!”
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