Ashley Wadleigh is a mother of three, and as mothers with multiple young kids under the age of 10 know, they can sometimes get rowdy.
But she was completely caught off-guard when the people sitting at a table next to her could not even tolerate sitting next to her family.
Wadleigh had brought her children to eat at a Red Robin before going to their school’s skate night at a nearby ice arena—a familiar place. In fact, one of the servers was someone Wadleigh used to work with, so she asked to be seated in that area.
But as she and the kids sat down, she could see that the woman at the next table (which was very close) “immediately looked uncomfortable and held her hand over half of her face like she didn’t want to look at us.”
That wasn’t all. Then the woman’s husband got up and whispered something to the server.
The server “immediately moved them to another table away from us.”
Wadleigh’s first reaction was annoyance. Sure, kids can get noisy. And they would be far from the first people in the world to not want to have dinner right next to three young kids.
“But I couldn’t help but be angry,” Wadleigh admitted.
“Like, what do you think my kids are going to do, throw food? Stab you with a fork?”
She couldn’t help it—she asked the server what the real reason was, all the while “annoyed by the whole thing.” But what he told her was probably the last thing she expected.
“He bent down to the table and said ‘they recently lost a child.’ In that moment, I felt so ashamed. My heart literally skipped a beat. I felt horrible for her, I felt horrible for judging her.”
Wadleigh did the only thing she could think of that moment; she paid their bill as a gesture of support. She asked the server not to tell them—but it seemed they figured it out anyway.
As Wadleigh and her children got up to leave, the woman came over, holding back tears.
“Ma’am, I didn’t want you to think because…” the woman started, before Wadleigh cut her off, nearly in tears herself.
“I just gave her a hug and she whispered ‘Thank you,'” Wadleigh recounted on Facebook, sharing her takeaways.
“I feel awful for their loss but grateful this encounter happened,” she wrote.
“It reminded me to never snap judge someone you never know what others are going through.”
“It also reminded me to live every moment with my children..to savor the good and bad..because they are here and they are mine. And also to of course always be kind.”
Wadleigh expected a couple of her friends to read it—but she didn’t expect thousands upon thousands to start sharing it within hours of her posting it. The story was then shared to the Facebook page Love What Matters, where others also commented with similar stories—or similar reactions to her story.
“That’s so sad,” Nicole wrote. “I thought negative instantly but never would’ve thought she wanted to move for that reason. I’m just glad it was a positive outcome.”
Alyssa commented that “pain can be invisible.” Having lost a child herself, she knows how hard it can be to be near families with children during those early days. “This is a wonderful eye-opening story to show not to judge, you never know someone’s story, you never know someone’s battle.”