‘Your meal’s already been covered.’ I don’t have the right words. I teared up.’: Stranger’s act of kindness for mom-of-3 at Cracker Barrel came when she needed it most, ‘my brother was killed on his way home for Thanksgiving’

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“Today, my three kids and I went to Cracker Barrel on Bradley Park Dr in Columbus, Georgia after church. We recently moved to the area from overseas, but 7 years ago when we lived in southeast Georgia as a whole family, going to Cracker Barrel after church was just tradition. So today, we continued that tradition.

The food was delicious, all the staff we ran into were great, and despite it being very busy, we didn’t have a long wait at all. So fair warning – this is not a post stating a complaint by any means nor in any nature. Rather, this post is a reminder of how a simple act of kindness has more impact than the giver could ever expect, and it so happened in a Cracker Barrel.

What was probably seen:

30-year-old mom, three kids in tow. Mom ensures all kids are settled and knows what they’d like to eat before ever considering herself. Kids are coloring, ‘playing’ the triangle peg game, trying to convince mom to order chocolate fudge cake for lunch. Mom, helping with their coloring book, filling drinks, and doing all the parent things parents try their best to do.

At the end of our meal, our server brought us a to-go box and said five words with a smile that hit harder than words could ever express:

‘Your meal’s already been covered.’

I don’t even know how to go on from here. I don’t have the right words. I teared up and through my own smile and watery eyes, I told my 8 and 4-year-old ‘someone paid for our meal already. Can you believe that? Someone we don’t even know paid for our meal!’

Here’s where it’s important. Here’s what no one could have possibly seen:

Today, 4 years ago, my little brother and only sibling lived his last day in this world. I was 26 with a 4-year-old and 9-month-old when I got the call while my husband was at work that at around 1 a.m., Nov 25th, 2015, my brother was killed in a head-on collision with a semi-truck in Leesburg, Virginia on his way to our family farm for Thanksgiving.

Today was a ‘survive’ vs ‘thrive’ day. ‘Just make it through’ ‘kind of day. Today was a day I subconsciously did not want to go home because I didn’t want to be left to my thoughts. Today was a day I sat in the church lobby during the worship service instead of the main area because I couldn’t handle the raw emotions worship brought on this specific day. I mean, let’s face it – I have three kids to care for today and just can’t afford the breakdown.

Today, after Cracker Barrel, we walked around the mall, got Christmas trees for each kid’s room, bought a couple candles, got milkshakes, and went to the playground for quite a while before the kids’ bedtime. My husband, who’s currently away at the drill academy in South Carolina, called and texted all day in support and love because he knew what today meant and loved my brother as his own.

As for my husband, 7 months ago, his little brother passed away, also at the age of 21. We’re both still struggling in grasping that reality. So, between this time of year for our family, the loss that’s recently happened in our family, an overseas move, and my husband/daddy being away for the last couple months, it’s been a tough one!

Courtesy Lexie Coppinger

But how could this stranger have known that? Paying for our meal was the kindest thing a stranger did today. You saw me. You saw us. You saw our family. You touched our hearts in a way you couldn’t possibly imagine. You were grace in a time of struggle.

On the back of a cross that was made for my brother’s memorial, it says ‘I will carry you.’ You, stranger, carried us today. And I promise to pay it forward.”

Courtesy Lexie Coppinger

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lexie Coppinger, 30,  of Fort Benning, Georgia. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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