Can we talk about some good news for once? Because I don’t want to state the obvious, but it feels like we’re slammed with stories of mass shootings, racism, sexism, abuse, and men in Florida doing their Florida man thing. It’s a dumpster fire out there, folks.
But that’s not the case in Belle Vernon, a borough in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, where a server named Dylan just became a viral sensation for doing something as simple as listening.
Here’s the story… Lisa Meilander was out to dinner at Eat’n Park in Belle Vernon on a Saturday night when she overheard her server, Dylan, chatting with a 91-year-old man sitting alone in a booth. According to Meilander, “The man apologized for not hearing too well. He had forgotten to put in his hearing aids. He talked about how he lost his hearing during his time in the war. He was 91 years old with many stories to tell. Dylan patiently listened giving him his full attention.”
Later the man said, and hold back your tears, “I’m alone now, and I don’t often have someone to talk to.”
I waited tables for about five years. It was my college job, and it wasn’t glamorous. Serving tables is a pretty difficult gig, and slowing down to listen to someone isn’t easy, especially if you have needy customers and your section is full. I waited tables almost a decade ago, and I’m sure a lot of things have changed since then, but I feel confident that one thing hasn’t: servers are hesitant about elderly folks who come in alone. I know I was. They usually didn’t tip well, and had a lot to talk about, and frankly, when I was waiting tables, I was there to make as much money as I could before the end of my shift.
I don’t bring this up to make you think all servers are jerks, although, reading what I just wrote, I can see how it might come off that way. I bring it up to let you know how exceptional of a person Dylan must be. In my experience, most servers would have given this man limited attention because they suspected he wouldn’t tip as well as his other tables. They would have tried to avoid getting sucked into a conversation that might detract from other customers.
But not Dylan.
Not only did he get down on one knee to chat with him eye to eye, halfway through the man’s meal, Dylan went on break. Instead of hanging out behind the restaurant to chat with friends, as servers often do, he sat down next to the man and just listened because that is what this man honestly, and truly, needed.
What an amazing human!
But hey, the story gets even better. Lisa Meilander, the author of the story, was about to offer to pay for the man’s meal. She attempted to wave down Dylan, but someone seated across from her beat her to it. The man at the other booth asked to have the man’s check sent to his table, but Dylan said, “Someone’s already taken care of it.”
Three people that we know of offered to buy this man a meal.
In all my years waiting tables, I never saw anything like this. Never. I can’t recall a single stranger ever paying for another person’s meal.
It’s stories like this that give us hope. And sure, it’s a simple story. It’s just one young man taking a moment to listen to an elderly man, who was obviously lonely. But frankly, this is how people change. This is how differences are made. This is how we can all reach out and really help someone. It’s not always a grand gesture. It’s not always some Hollywood story of pulling a baby from a burning building. It doesn’t always require a large donation. Sometimes it’s just as simple as sitting across from someone, listening, and letting them know that they do, in fact, matter.
And you know what, that is something we can all afford to do more of.
Dylan told Good Morning America that the man got quite emotional during their conversation. “He was actually crying when he was talking to me, like when he was talking about the war. It just really hit a soft spot in my heart, honestly.”
As of right now Dylan’s story on Facebook has 203,000 reactions, 60,000 shares, and just shy of 15,000 comments. This story not only touched a lot of people, but it also gave a lot of readers hope that the world isn’t such an awful place. We need more Dylans in the world.
No doubt about it.
As Lisa left the restaurant, the two of them were still conversing. “And many people seated nearby were smiling. It was a touching sight.”
Lisa ends her post with this wonderful statement: “With all of the negative stories about our youth today this was a breath of fresh air. I wonder if I would have been as kind and attentive if I were the one working there. One thing’s for sure, if you are ever at Eat’n Park in Belle Vernon, ask for Dylan. If he’s your waiter you’re certain to get great service.”
Let’s all be more like Dylan.