Tim Young and Paul Hullings had no idea how their lives were about to change when they entered the 130 Diner in Delran, New Jersey. It was 5:30 AM, and the restaurant was empty.
As they prepared to order some food, a young waitress approached them with a note in her hand. They were in shock after reading her letter.
Liz Woodward’s shift was about to end when two men entered the diner.
She approached the men and greeted them with a warm smile. Paul looked at her and said: “I need the biggest cup of coffee that you have,” he said, yawning. “Sure,” Liz said. “A coffee for me as well, ” said Tim. Little did the two firefighters know what they were in for.
Liz listened to their conversation as she prepared two large black coffees. Then, she looked up at the breaking news segment on TV and immediately recognized the men’s faces.
There was a big fire in a warehouse in North Brunswick, and it had lasted almost the whole night. But fortunately, the firefighter team managed to get it under control and prevent it from spreading further. Liz knew what she had to do.
The young waitress waited for the two firefighters to finish their breakfasts and coffee before handing them her note.
She wrote a couple of sentences on the bill and left it on their table. When Paul picked it up and began to read, he burst into tears.
The two firefighters couldn’t believe what they had just read. It was clear that Liz was struggling a lot. She worked long hours almost every day to pay off her student loan.
After Tim and Paul had read her note, they immediately took a photo and posted it on Facebook. Their post soon went viral, receiving hundreds of likes, comments, and shares! Soon strangers were recognizing Liz on the street. So, what did the note say?
“Your breakfast is on me today – Thank you for all that you do; for serving others and for running into the places everyone else runs away from,” Liz wrote in her note.
“No matter your role, you are courageous, brave, and strong… Thank you for being bold every day! Fueled by fire and driven by courage – what an example you are. Get some rest.” After reading the note, the two men knew they needed to help her.
“I started tearing up, and it made me feel good – us firefighters are wanted, people care about us,” Paul told WPVI-TV.
It was only after their Facebook post went viral that the two men learned that their waitress was going through a tough time.
Paul and Tim found Liz’s GoFundMe account online and knew what they had to do.
“Such a selfless and kind act. I definitely urge my friends to make a trip out and support the business, and if Liz happens to be your waitress, tip big,” Tim wrote on the Facebook post.
“Turns out, the young lady who gave us a free meal is really the one that could use the help…” he continued.
“We have rented a van before, twice actually, so that my Dad could attend his father’s funeral and his daughter’s graduation since transport isn’t covered unless your trip is deemed medically necessary (and it’s very expensive out of pocket, even to rent for a few hours),” Liz wrote on her GoFundMe page.
“It was the first time since his aneurysm ruptured that he was able to interact with family members and friends he hadn’t seen in years,” she continued.
Liz’s dad was left wheelchair-bound after suffering an aneurysm. She tried to raise money on GoFundMe to buy him a wheelchair-accessible van.
The two firefighters were touched by her story. Liz was constantly thinking about how she could make people’s lives easier.
“We watched my father smile, and we witnessed joy and accomplishment, and we watched his memory strengthen with every person who left his side in disbelief that he could remember exactly who they were and what got them in trouble back in the day,” Liz continued.
“See, my Dad is still Steve. He’s just Steve, who survived a brain injury and now uses a wheelchair. He deserves to be Steve and not just a patient or a number on a chart.”
Liz’s campaign quickly grew as more and more people sent donations after reading Paul and Tim’s Facebook post.
Liz’s goal was to raise $17,000 with her GoFundMe campaign, but in just a few days, the amount that had been donated tripled.
She received over $70,000! It was more than enough to purchase a brand-new hydraulic lift and van for her father.
Liz never expected to receive such a huge amount of money. She also didn’t think paying for the firefighter’s $15 breakfast was a big deal.
“I know it’s being remarked on as this extraordinary act. It’s small. It’s a little gesture,” she told WPVI.
“Our family has witnessed an outpouring of love and support from around the world, and I want to thank each and every one of you beautiful human beings for making this dream possible!” Liz wrote.
Liz’s story is proof that it really pays off to be kind and empathic.