When Cracker Barrel waitress Abigail Sailors first approached a table last Thursday, she had no idea that her interaction with the two customers sitting there would profoundly impact her life.
Sailors, 18, works at the restaurant's Lincoln, Neb., location and told TheBlaze that, at first, her conversation with the two was routine, though that quickly changed when the experience ended with a $6,000 tip.
Waitress Abigail Sailors was given a $6,000 tip recently after sharing her harrowing story with customers (Credit: Abigail Sailors' Facebook page)
Initially, the two entered the restaurant and asked for the grumpiest server available, as they apparently wanted to make him or her laugh. When the hostess said that no one who worked there was cantankerous, the customers were seated in Sailors' section.
"They just started joking with me and asking me why I was so happy, [asking], 'Do you have a perfect family?' and that sort of thing," the waitress said.
Little did the customers know, but Sailors' family history is actually quite complicated -- and tragic.
She and her brothers and sisters have been in the foster system for years after their mother sustained lasting brain damage during a life-altering car accident, and their father was subsequently deemed unfit to parent.
As The Lincoln Journal Star reported, the waitress -- the youngest of five -- found herself stuck in the system. The siblings were initially separated and placed in different foster homes, with stories of abuse and trauma along the way.
Eventually, though, the four youngest, including Sailors, were united nine years ago, finding a caring home with John and Susi Sailors, a couple who already had five children of their own.
While the Sailors family didn't officially adopt Abigail Sailors and her siblings, they consider them their own.
A testament to the strength of their relationship can be found in the fact that the waitress officially took her foster parents' surname last year.
Sailors said she didn't initially share these details with the strangers at the restaurant last Thursday. But the customers were very curious about her background and kept throwing out guesses about her circumstances.
"'Do you live with your grandma?' 'Are your parents divorced?'" she recalled them asking. "They wouldn't stop guessing."
Sailors, who is known as a cheery and upbeat person, said she enjoyed the banter. After talking with the two for a bit, she felt they were genuine and decided to tell them more about her harrowing story.
"I didn't go into detail. I just gave them a quick overview," Sailors said.
During the chat, the waitress also mentioned her studies at Trinity Bible College in Ellendale, N.D., and the fact that she's personally paying for her education.
When the customers asked if she'd be returning to school after break, Sailors told them she'd be taking a break due to financial constraints in hopes of saving enough money to continue her studies in youth ministry and psychology next fall.
Then, when it came time to pay their bill, something truly inspirational happened.
Credit: Abigail Sailors' Facebook page
"They asked for my first and last name to write on the check -- to pay for the food," she recalled, noting that she was confused by the request, considering that a server's name isn't required for checkout.
And that's when one of the men said he is an alumnus of Trinity Bible College, the very school she attends. He then took out his checkbook and wrote out two separate checks -- a $5,000 gift to the college for Sailors' studies and a separate $1,000 check for her personal expenses.
"I just started crying. My eyes filled with tears," she said of the surreal experience. "I'm still shocked, even a week later."
Now, rather than staying home in hopes of saving enough to return to school in the fall, Sailors will be leaving next week for her spring semester -- an experience that would have been impossible without kind support from two complete strangers.
"No words can describe how thankful I am," she said. "There's never going to be the right words to say how grateful I am of this."
Sailors added, "All the glory goes to God and those men made it clear to me," claiming that she's a Christian who believes the entire experience was God-ordained.
Her foster father, John Sailors, also told TheBlaze that he believes the experience is no coincidence.
John Sailors and his wife Susi have known Abigail and her siblings their entire life; they were good friends with their mother and before the car accident, John and Susi would sometimes watch the children while their mom worked.
After tragedy struck and the kids were split up into foster care, the couple made the decision -- one they felt was prompted by God -- to take in four of the young children.
"They're part of the family," John Sailors said, noting that his five biological children consider Abigail and her siblings their brothers and sisters.
He added, "This has been a God thing all along," telling TheBlaze that his wife had once prayed that God would bring the family hurting children. That prayer, Susi believes, was inevitably answered.
As for Abigail, the foster father described her as "a really hard worker who enjoys being around other people." He said she's hoping to help other kids who have also fallen on hard times.
And he shared one other detail -- a tidbit that might prove that what goes around truly does come around: At her old serving job, Abigail would sometimes personally pay for meals for those in need.
Now, she's the one on the receiving end of a good deed.
Abigail Sailors' touching story is reminiscent of the Tips4Jesus movement, though her very personal journey certainly adds some profound elements into the mix.
Sailors has decided not to give the benefactors' identity, though she plans to keep in touch with the two.
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