The act of “paying it forward” has become the main way for people to spread happiness and kindness to others in hopes that they will do the same. No matter the kind or size of the act someone decides to organize, the purpose remains the same; to make someone’s day even just the slightest bit better. The best part of paying it forward is that the person you choose then has the chance to help someone else, which makes the overall effect even larger. But what happens when you want to pay it forward to someone who has already helped you in one way or another?
Paying it forward does not have to be limited to helping a stranger, especially when there is a personal connection behind the initial act. Sometimes, when someone does something so caring and goes out of their way to make someone else’s day better, the only way to repay them is doing something just as nice for them. There are a lot of deserving people in the world, but no one is more deserving than those who help to save the lives of others.
Often when we think about those kinds of people, police officers, firefighters and other emergency personnel come to mind. These professions face danger in their line of work every day and still put themselves at risk to help others in need. But what about the average citizen? More often than not, acts of kindness committed by the average Joe are forgotten as soon as they happen. That is, unless someone is so profoundly affected by what was done that the good deed ends up being returned, which is exactly what happened in this story.
One mother is revealing her story about why she is working so hard to repay a waitress at a Waffle House in Tennessee, who she credits with saving the life of her son. When tragedy struck the restaurant, the actions of the waitress ended up sparing the young man, who may otherwise no longer be here today.
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In April, a gunman opened fire in the parking lot and inside of a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee, killing four people and injuring others. Michael Garth Sr. had entered the restaurant with his friends shortly before the gunman and took a seat at a table. He had no idea at the time what was about to unfold in front of him.
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When the group sat down, a waitress by the name of Virginia Stanley was washing dishes nearby. Because of the close proximity of Garth’s table, she suggested that they move to avoid the possibility of water being splashed on them. Moments later, the quiet scene inside the Waffle House erupted.
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When the gunman entered the restaurant, the change in tables ended up sparing Garth’s life, as it put him just outside of the range of gunfire. Garth’s friends were also all spared because of the simple suggestion of the waitress. After Michael’s mother learned of what had happened, she began to spend time trying to locate and contact Stanley.
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Vickie Davis, the mother of Garth, was desperate to thank the woman who unknowingly had prevented another life being taken in the restaurant that night. To her, it was proof that one small action can have immeasurable consequences. As fate would have it, she got what she wished for when she visited a local mechanic to have her tires changed.
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Here, she ran into the manager of the Waffle House where her and her son’s lives changed forever. A casual conversation turned out to be much more when the manager was then able to put her in touch with Stanley’s fiancé. From here, Davis’s long-awaited plan began to take shape.
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“I said, ‘I’ve been trying to find you, I need to find that lady… so I can bless her because she saved my son’s life,” Davis explained to CNN as she recalled the moment of fate at the local repair shop. She had finally gotten the opportunity to show her gratitude the only way she knew how.
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When Davis contacted Stanley’s fiancé, the two began to chat and get to know each other. It was then revealed to Davis that the two were in the process of planning their wedding and how excited they were about it. However, there was one small detail holding up the ceremony.
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Stanley was in search of a dress, so she could make her dream wedding a reality. Davis knew what needed to be done and rushed to help in any way she could. Immediately, she contacted Glitz Nashville bridal store to discuss securing a dress, but they were shocked to find out who would be the recipient.
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Glitz Nashville is well-known in the Nashville area due to the fact that they give away free dresses to military women. Davis is an Army veteran and although it did take some convincing on her part, she was able to talk the store owners into donating a dress to the woman who she felt she owed so much.
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Davis described to CNN the steps she took to help Stanley find her desired dress:
“I begged them, called them, stayed on their case and asked if they would make an exception to the rule and give her a wedding dress.”
Davis was actually able to participate in choosing a dress alongside the bride-to-be, making the experience even more memorable.
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“She was crying and I was crying,” continued Davis, who had the opportunity to meet Stanley at the bridal shop for the first time. “It was a very emotional moment.” Garth Sr. did not have the opportunity to attend but expressed his gratitude for his mother and the waitress.
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“It’s pretty cool that we were able to do that for her. I got married not long ago, so I know how it is,” Garth expressed to CNN reporters. “Planning a wedding, finding a dress and going through all those things. I’m very proud and thankful that we were able to help.” But the story doesn’t end with the dress.
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Stanley and her fiancé were shocked by the act of kindness that Davis showed them in their own time of need. Stanley’s fiancé explained to CNN, “The first person that stepped forward and helped us in any way possible was the lady that helped us with the wedding dress.”
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Virginia Stanley has faced much adversity since the shooting, including frequent doctor and hospital visits due to post-traumatic stress disorder. She still suffers from facial scarring and partial vision loss as a result of the shooting. Shattered glass had rained down all over the restaurant, which is what caused her injuries. She has also had issues being in large crowds or hearing loud noises. She is still on the road to recovery.
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Stanley’s fiancé, Douglas Lauderdale, says she is working to get better and heal herself after the traumatic series of events. Because of this, Davis said that she is not done trying to help Virginia and Douglas. She is continuing to offer other forms of help and continuing to pay it forward to the waitress.
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For example, Davis is working towards getting Stanley her own personal service dog. The service dog is meant to help rehabilitate and assist Virginia with daily tasks that she now has trouble with due to her experience at the Waffle House. Davis wants to ensure she is helping in any way she can.
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“I’m on a mission today to try and find someone to donate her a service dog,” Davis told CNN. “I don’t know how, but I’ll do my best to make it happen.”
“This is just normal Miss Vickie Davis,” said a family friend that goes by the name of Sneed. “Her work doesn’t stop.” In light of the tragedy, it is inspiring to see someone so dedicated to seeing the rainbow after the storm.
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