by Father Mark Goldasich
I’ll bet most people have never heard of Aaron Collins. This 30-year-old has so far made 72 people deliriously happy… and he’s not stopping there. What’s even more amazing is that he has done this from the grave!
No, this is not some spooky Halloween tale. It’s a story of what one person can do to affect the lives of others. Aaron died in July 2012. In his will, one of the instructions for his family was to leave an “awesome” tip for a waiter or waitress. He specified that he was not talking about a 25-percent tip. No, Aaron had in mind something in the neighborhood of $500.
Wanting to honor his brother’s request, older brother Seth gathered contributions from family and friends for the tip. When the amount was collected, the event — at Puccini’s Smiling Pizza in Lexington, Ky. — was videoed and posted online. What was not expected was that the three-minute video went viral and soon people all over the world were touched and started to contribute so others in the food service industry could receive an awesome tip. Eventually, some $50,000 came pouring in. After Seth passed out tips in Kentucky, he decided to travel to all 50 states and leave tips in each one.
On July 26 of this year, Jessica Betts was waiting tables at the 23rd Street Brewery
in Lawrence. Little did she know that Seth Collins was one of her customers. As reported by Meagan Thomas in the Lawrence Journal World, Jessica got a $500 tip that day. Kansas was the 10th stop on Seth’s cross-country trip, and Jessica was the 60th person to receive a tip in memory of Aaron.
Now, that story in itself is heartwarming. But even better is that Jessica intended to share her good fortune with an uncle who was in a “rough situation” and with her roommate who wanted to go to hair school. That often happens: Generosity inspires generosity.
Seth has been posting videos as he travels the country, distributing these awesome tips. The latest was from the Two Bird Café in San Geronimo, Calif. This was the 22nd stop in the States, and the waitress there was the 72nd person to get $500 (that makes $36,000 given away so far). If you have time, a few extra Kleenex and want to watch some smile-inducing videos, head to the website.
Watching the joy, gratitude and sometimes outright disbelief of the recipients of these tips — often students or single parents — is inspirational.
Happily, though, you don’t need to wait until your will is read to make others feel special. You also don’t need to hand out $500 to a waiter or waitress (although if you did, I’m sure it would be fun and memorable). One of the greatest gifts that we can give is simply the gift of being present, really present, to each other.
For many of us, it starts with two things: Make time to enjoy a friend’s company and leave your cellphone in the car or purse. (One exception is if you need your phone to show photos.) Aren’t we so addicted to the various beeps and bleeps of these devices that they steal our attention and rob us from being totally present to a real, live human being in front of us?
Or in this Halloween season, how about preparing a treat bag for someone, like a receptionist, a checkout person or your garbage collector? It can be as simple as a sack filled with those fun-size (and thus calorie-free?) candy bars. Or how about buying a pack of Halloween cards — I picked up eight for $4.99 the other day — and sending them to relatives and friends who live out of state, just to say hi? If it’s a college student or a senior citizen, a gift card tucked inside would be an unexpected treat.
During Respect Life Month, helping people around us feel appreciated and important might not cost $500, but somehow I bet they’ll wind up feeling like a million bucks.