The pay-it-forward restaurant: one diner sparks a chain reaction of kindness

Haley Joel Osment's crude chalk drawing attempts to explain what happened last month at Sybil's Omelettes Unlimited. (Warner Bros)Haley Joel Osment's crude chalk drawing attempts to explain what happened last month at Sybil's Omelettes Unlimited. …If you eat it, you pay for it. That's a generally accepted rule at restaurants around the world. But one recent morning, at a diner in Salem, Oregon, the rule was bent.

The Statesman Journal has the story: "It started with an older gentleman picking up the tab for a pair of Oregon National Guard soldiers. When the soldiers learned their bill was taken care of, they paid the bill for customers at another table, then that table did the same for another, and so on."

On Thursday, Aug. 25, Sybil's Omelettes Unlimited became the site of a generosity domino effect. For four straight hours every table had their tabbed picked up by a total stranger at another table.

Teena Hall, an assistant manager at the homey, bric-a-brac eatery tallied 20 transactions before she stopped counting and just went with the flow. "People were just pointing to tables," Hall told the Statesman. "Nobody knew each other."

This wasn't a "random of act of kindness" day, or a "meet your neighbor event", it was just an in-the- moment idea that sparked a chain reaction of pure goodness.

Light bulb idea: what if there were a restaurant somewhere that worked in just this way? Everyone picks up a stranger's tab instead of their own. There'd have to be limitations on ordering or a way to ensure you're paying for a similar amount to what you consumed, but the big requirement would be to thank the person face-to-face that picked up your tab. Forget Olive Garden, this restaurant would actually live up to the "when you're here you're family" promise. It's everyone's treat, and everyone's free meal.
Then again, maybe those acts of generosity are better left unscripted. That's the other lesson we learned from the movie "Pay It Forward".


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