It was a regular Saturday morning at the La Marque, Texas Waffle House. The morning rush in full swing, the grill filled with waffles, and the sound of forks on plates. Everything appeared like any ordinary day until one of the regular customers saw a waitress do something quite extraordinary.
She couldn’t believe her eyes and grabbed her phone to catch it on film. She uploaded it to the internet, and it went viral in the blink of an eye. Once the online community became aware of the waitress’ behavior towards her customer, everyone would look at her a little differently.
Laura was a regular customer at this Waffle House. The city of La Marque is pretty tiny, with a population of only 16,000 people. Because of its small size, she got to know the restaurant’s servers pretty well.
She came in for her breakfast that day and saw something in her peripheral vision. As she glanced up, she saw that one of the waitresses was speaking with a customer. It was one of the young waitresses Evoni Williams, or “Nini,” as close pals called her.
Evoni “Nini” Williams was only 18 years old when she finished high school and started at the Waffle House. Though young, she took this job very seriously because she was saving up for college. This job was almost as important to her as she was to the Waffle House.
Most people can deduce that the weekend shifts are the busiest of the week. The best workers are usually scheduled for those days and multitask during those shifts. Thus, Laura was taken aback when she saw Evoni stopping everything she was doing in the middle of the busy morning shift.
Laura had noticed Evoni bustling around all morning. Whether it was taking phone orders, running between the kitchen and tables to serve orders, or just checking in with patrons to make sure that their meal was tasty, Evoni was at her best.
Laura was not the only guest who had come to have a delectable breakfast at the Waffle House, though. She noted that the customer that Evoni was speaking with was a fellow frequent flyer at the establishment, Adrien.
Adrien was a frequent customer at the Waffle House and was well-liked by all of the wait staff. Fun fact, many of them referred to him as “Mr. Karaoke” as a loving nickname. But they also all knew that the 78-year-old man was not doing well medically.
He traveled around with an oxygen tank and dealt with additional health issues since he had just gotten discharged from the hospital. His positive attitude was present despite his circumstances. He appreciated and eagerly anticipated the fantastic treatment he got from the Waffle House wait staff.
When Laura glanced up to see Evoni talking with Adrien, she wouldn’t have thought it odd on any other day. Laura had also known that Adrien was a regular customer at the breakfast restaurant, just like herself, and she remembered that Evoni was kind to every customer.
But that morning was packed to capacity, and the restaurant seemed to be understaffed that day. So, Laura knew that this was unusual for Evoni to have some extra conversations with customers. But what Laura thought was just a fun conversation was actually something far more than that.
With the breakfast rush in full swing, Laura saw Evoni stop everything she was doing in the middle of the wildly busy morning rush. It doesn’t matter if you’re the patron or the employee; we all feel the stress and energy of the chaotic weekend mornings at a restaurant.
Plates of food were piling up at the kitchen window. Customers were waiting for their coffee refills, checks needing to be paid. But Evoni ignored all of that at the time. Adrien had requested something from Evoni, and without hesitation, she made it her number one priority.
Few enjoy being the customer that has to wave down wait staff for some specific thing they need before they begin eating. Since Adrien and Laura were regular customers at the Waffle House, we’re confident that they tended not to ask for little things during a busy day.
They thought they were being a burden for bothering the kind employees over something so small in the middle of a busy day. Evoni later explained in an interview with CBS News that during fast-paced rushes at work, the key is working quickly but effectively in a reasonable amount of time.
Evoni was at her best, bustling between tables and the kitchen, taking and serving orders, and collecting bill payments. After Evoni had given Adrien’s food to him during all of this going on, there was just one more additional thing he needed before he was able to enjoy his delicious meal.
But Adrien’s request wasn’t something easy, like asking for a bottle of ketchup or extra napkins. Although simple for most customers, his request was something that was pretty banal and time-consuming.
Regular Waffle House customer Laura was eating directly across from Adrien and Evoni. She had a perfectly clear view of them both, but she couldn’t quite hear what was happening. What could he be saying that the Waffle House waitress felt the urgency to stop everything and assist this older man?
A couple of seconds later, what Laura was able to see, was something she had difficulty putting into words herself. She fetched her phone from her bag and began to take some pictures.
Laura witnessed the whole exchange and couldn’t believe her eyes! She had to document what she was watching, or nobody would understand the gravity of the situation. So, what exactly was his request? Evoni told CBS News that he had told her that his hands weren’t stable since leaving the hospital.
As a result of his medical issues, his hand coordination doesn’t perform properly. So, in the middle of the morning rush, Adrien bashfully asked Evoni if she could him slice his breakfast ham. And it was Evoni’s actions, without hesitation, that surprised Laura.
Adrien had shyly asked Evoni if she could assist him by cutting up his food. And even in the middle of the breakfast rush, Evoni had no issue humbly helping Adrien with his request. Adrien later explained to ABC News that he lost feeling and strength in his hands.
The 18-year-old Evoni grinned and got right to work helping Adrien. Laura was so emotional to see how Evoni took her time to assist Adrien with something that used to be so basic for him. And she did it naturally with total humility and a smile across her face.
When you’re in the middle of a shift constantly going between the kitchen and tables, sometimes it can get stressful dealing with everything and everyone around. But when it comes to good service, the key to it all is going quickly, but make sure that it’s effective serving.
In this specific moment, Evoni had focused entirely on Adrien. She understood how tough it must be for someone to request help like this, but she did it with a smile in the most modest way. And she had no clue how this one small deed would affect her life.
Evoni had no clue that anyone was recording her with their camera. But once Laura had put what she had documented online, the story went viral and spread like wildfire all over Texas!
What was just a typical, helpful gesture for her was a big deal for Adrien. And obviously, it was an even more prominent example of inspiration for Laura and people on the internet. And it didn’t take long for her to find out how others had captured her natural act of compassion on camera.
Adrien just nicely asked for some help with his food. Even with her coworkers in the background asking for help to grab plates to serve waiting tables, Evoni reassured Adrien that he was her priority at that moment. She grabbed his utensils and started cutting up his ham into smaller pieces.
The thoughtfulness and patience that Evoni embodied were so incredible to Laura that she felt inspired to share it online. She had no way of knowing that this would result in something so totally unexpected.
What started as an audience of 10 people quickly grew to 100. That 100 people then became thousands. And those thousands of people were liking, commenting, reacting, and sharing Laura’s post of Evoni’s thoughtful, innocent act of modest compassion.
It spread so fast that the afternoon of the same day, Evoni had heard that she was suddenly famous on Facebook. And despite a picture being worth 1,000 words, Laura’s post wasn’t the sole version of the story the internet was about to receive.
Laura had no idea how much attention she was going to receive from her online post. She was just so inspired by her local Waffle House waitress that she felt compelled to spread the “pay-it-forward” attitude and had zero clue that it would come back to affect Evoni’s personal life.
Laura’s photograph and post were uploaded and shared across the internet, but there was also security footage from Waffle House management that was made aware of the situation. It took a couple of days before Evoni truly started to notice the effect of all these posts.
Evoni didn’t think what she did was particularly special. That’s what makes her such a fantastic waitress, though; she’s eager to go above and beyond to ensure that her guests are satisfied with their visit to the restaurant. And assisting Adrien didn’t feel like a burden at all.
But her habitual act of kindness wasn’t just drawing the attention of people from online communities. Her own town and mayor of her town had several things to say about the whole situation.
She wasn’t just becoming known online; she was also being featured on TV news stations. Channels like ABC News and CBS News jumped on the story and the chance to speak with Evoni directly. During her interview with ABC News, they asked her more about her point of view.
Evoni shared that she had been taught to help however she could rather than judge others. And as necessary as it is to give, sometimes it can be even tougher to accept something good. And Evoni had a ton of good directed at her! But how did Adrien feel about all that had happened?
Everyone was showing her appreciation, from the strangers on social media and online to the local TV news to her guests. But the most meaningful opinion has to be from Adrien himself, right?
CBS News thought so when they interviewed the lovable older man on how he felt when Evoni took the time to assist him. His heart-warming answer was how grateful he was for what she did for him. Beyond Adrien, there were a few other known people who wanted to share their appreciation, as well.
Evoni became a town celebrity, and word spread to the town mayor. On March 8, 2018, nearly a week after the attentive waitress assisted Adrien, the Waffle House hosted a significant event. And this wasn’t just any regular event; it was a special ceremony.
The town of La Marque appreciated and honored Evoni for her act of compassion with her costumer and going above her duties to simply be a good person. Having a ceremony in your honor is a big deal, but Evoni was about to get some incredible rewards from her community.
The city of La Marque chose to honor Evoni with her act of thoughtfulness and rare customer service. The Public Relations department of the City of La Marque organized the celebratory event at the Waffle House on March 8, 2018, and even presented Evoni with a lovely bouquet of flowers.
But that was only the beginning of some of the incredible things she received by just being her selfless, natural self. Laura’s viral post was about to change Evoni’s entire life, and this ceremony was going to reveal all of these exciting changes.
Among those in attendance, there were two notable representatives at the ceremony. First to speak was Bobby Hocking, mayor of La Marque. He gave a speech to honor Evoni and shared that the city council had a special thanks to extend because of her big heart and willingness to help.
La Marque proclaimed that March 8, 2018, was “Evoni Nini Williams’ Day.” Evoni got a day named in her honor all because of an act of kindness! This day was meant to inspire businesses and other civilians with the empathy that Evoni has displayed. How wonderful!
How many ordinary people have a day named after them? Evoni couldn’t believe that this was happening to her! But the second notable representative at the ceremony still needed to speak. Keep in mind the whole reason for Evoni working at the Waffle House was to save up money for college.
She had been a diligent and dedicated employee since July 2017 and was slowly, but surely, saving up to go to school. The second important representatives were a group from Texas Southern University.
Evoni was emotional from this public recognition of her service. If she wasn’t grinning and giggling from how ecstatic she was to be acknowledged for her kindness, she had tears of joy streaming down her cheeks.
It’s one thing to be praised and go viral on social media and the internet. Plus, to be treated like a local celebrity is also quite something. But she received an entire day honoring her! What could the representatives from Texas Southern University (TSU) give her that she didn’t already have?
Wendall Williams, the assistant to Texas Southern University’s president, was the second notable representative slated to speak at Evoni’s recognition ceremony. He came as a university spokesperson to honor and recognize her extraordinary, generous, and understanding attitude.
During his speech to Evoni, he referenced a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote about how we first need to help ourselves in order to truly be able to help someone else. At the end of his speech came Evoni’s next unanticipated, considerable, gratifying surprise.
It’s tough to not only get into college but also manage to afford it. That’s an absurd amount of stress. But Evoni wasn’t willing to quit her dream. Her goal was to study Business Management and did everything in her power as a waitress at the Waffle House to save her money and go study.
And to pair nicely with the main point of the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that Wendell Williams referenced, TSU chose to take a chance and pay it forward to Evoni. They granted her a $16,000 scholarship to study at their university.
From Laura’s viral Facebook post that got the ball rolling to the town’s ceremony to a scholarship to TSU, Evoni was in disbelief that it was real. It was emotional, astounding, and exhilarating all at the same time! But the school wasn’t going to gift her a check and then leave.
Wendall Williams extended his congratulations to Evoni by giving her his personal contact information and offering his services if she decided to attend Texas Southern. By paying it forward back to Evoni, he wanted to personally ensure that she’d have someone supporting her if she attended TSU.
The $16,000 scholarship would only pay for around half of a bachelor’s degree. Since she graduated high school in 2017, she’s been saving her paychecks from Waffle House. After being gifted the generous $16,000 Texas Southern scholarship, she still needed more money to pay for school.
Evoni proved that she doesn’t hesitate to pay it forward; it came naturally to her. So, with the assistance of some local, she started a GoFundMe account to raise the remainder of her tuition fees to add to her Waffle House tip earnings. Let this serve as a reminder that doing good will result in good!