The night started out like every other Friday night at Chipotle for us. until we got to the cash register. As we got ready to pay, the cashier told us that it had already been taken care of. We asked who had done it. She said that she wasn't supposed to say and just told us that for the next 20 customers in line, their bills were paid for. I quickly turned to look around the restaurant to see who it could be. My eyes fell on the scruffy blonde man sitting in the middle of the restaurant with his kids. He had been the first person in line when we got there.
On our way to sit down, I stopped by this man’s table and said thank you. He chuckled and said that it had been the kids’ idea. I thanked them, too, adding that it was too generous and offered to pay him back. He said that I probably did things like this for people all the time. I smiled, but thought to myself “No, I really don’t”. I left the table wondering, who does this?
As I sat down at my table, I asked my husband if he thought that guy looked familiar. The light seemed to click on in both of our heads at the same time. He told me that I had to go back and ask him if it was true. Wanting to preserve his anonymity, but not being able to live with myself without knowing, I walked back up to the stranger’s table.
“I’m sorry to bother you again,” I started, “but you look really familiar.” He chuckled, turned to his kids and said, “You hear that kids? She thinks I look like
BradPitt!” I couldn't resist, so I whispered, “You’re Philip Seymour Hoffman, aren't you?” He nodded, and I did my best to temper my excitement. The rest of the conversation is a bit of a blur. I think I said something about this being one of the greatest moments of my life (no offense to my husband).
You’d think that Philip Seymour Hoffman buying me dinner would be the end of my story. It’s not. A few minutes after he left with his kids, a young man came up to our table. He said that he hadn't eaten in a day and was hungry. He wanted us to buy him dinner. After living for a few years in a city, instinctively my husband and I both said no. Sorry, but no. The young man walked away, and my husband and I looked at each other. We couldn't believe that moments ago we had been talking about what a nice thing a stranger had done for us, and now, confronted with the opportunity to pay it forward, we had failed miserably. Lucky for us, the young man ended up walking back by us and my husband took him to the front and bought him dinner.
Rarely does a teaching moment like this come full circle in such a short amount of time. It's easy to become hardened and accept the generosity of others but forget that you should be giving that goodwill, too. That night I was reminded of this very important life lesson, and I have Philip Seymour Hoffman to thank.