The single mother was beyond exhausted as she sat at her table at Olive Graden. All she wanted was to enjoy her dinner and return home with her one-year-old daughter, Harlynn
Harlynn was tired too, so when the waitress came near, she decided to ask for a to-go box so she could eat in the car on their way home. She was anxious to get her daughter to bed. But she never expected the waitress to frown and adamantly say, “No.” This single mom's problems had only just begun.
This story took place in an Olive Garden restaurant in Greensboro, North Carolina. Its protagonist is a young single mom named Courtney Pedigo.
It had been a long day for Courtney. After getting off work, she hadn’t had a chance to wind down: she had to do some shopping and arrange something with her bank. Now it was 8 pm, and she was wiped out.
Her Baby Daughter Was With Her
Her 1-year-old daughter, Harlynn, had been with her the whole evening. That day, Courtney didn’t have anyone with whom she could leave the child.
Her mom was out of town, and her friends had their own obligations during that evening. But what about the girl’s father? Well, that was absolutely not an option for Courtney.
Harlynn’s dad and Courtney’s ex-partner was a man named Marvin. In a way, Courtney was glad that she had ever met him: otherwise, her daughter, the most important thing in the world for her, wouldn’t even be there.
But aside from that, Marvin’s presence in Courtney’s life only came with misery, stress, and uncountable sleepless nights.
When she met him, her friends had warned about him: he was unreliable, impulsive, and had made himself a name as a well-known womanizer. And at first, she kept her guard up.
But Marvin was smooth as silk: he convinced her that he could change with the right woman by his side, that he was too old to keep engaging in those shenanigans, and that it was time for him to settle down. Looking back on it, Courtney sometimes thought that he may have actually meant what he said. But things had taken a turn.
She Just Wanted Him To Be A Father
She didn’t even care about the cheating, the lies, and the disrespect. By the time Harlynn was born, all she had hoped was that Marvin would be there for her and be a decent father.
But apparently, that was too much to ask. Marvin left the house just a few months after Harlynn’s birth, and Courtney never heard back from him. She didn’t even know if he had run away with a lover or what he was up to these days. And in all fairness, she didn’t care either.
It Wasn’t Easy
Until then, she had been perfectly able to care for Harlynn all by herself. It hadn’t been easy, though; it had been a really exhausting ride. But now, she knew that Marvin would have been nothing more than a burden in her and her daughter’s lives.
When the incident happened in that Olive Garden, Courtney had just gone through one of the most stressful and busy days she could remember in months. Little did she know that destiny still had something in the books for her.
Something Was About To Happen
While she was sitting at Olive Garden, she expected her meal to be a closure to all the hassle she had gone through that day. But it would be much more than that.
And it all started after her baby got quite vocal about how tired she was. She was whining and complaining and clearly needed to go home and get some sleep as soon as possible. So Courtney made a decision.
She Asked For A To-Go Box
When one of the waitresses came close to her table, Courtney asked her for a to-go box. She planned to have her dinner in the car as quickly as possible and then go back home. Tomorrow will also be a long day.
But the waitress gave her a strange reaction. After hearing Courtney’s query, she stood still, frowned, stared at an unidentifiable spot near the single mom, and uttered: “No.” Then, she just walked away.
Just then, Harlynn started to kick her heels against the table. Courtney knew something terrible was about to happen. Her face flushed with mortification as the other diners began to complain. She was all too aware that all eyes were firmly on the spectacle her daughter was making.
But now, she was also becoming angry. This wasn’t the first time she had endured terrible service because she had a disruptive child, but this was really just too much.
But before she could decide what to do next, their waitress finally made it over to the table again. Courtney thought she might have changed her mind and had come to the table to collect their plates to pack their food up.
But the waitress once again refused them a to-go box so they could calm the baby down. And the frazzled mom was getting dangerously fed up with being treated so rudely.
24-year-old Nianni Rudder restated without batting an eye: “You’re going to go sit down and enjoy your dinner.” Courtney’s eyes widened in disbelief. Was the waitress refusing to help her? This was completely unacceptable.
With Harlynn’s screeching scraping her nerves, she opened her mouth to give the waitress a piece of her mind. But the waitress just walked away.
Courtney was puzzled by this. What was going on? Had she done something wrong? Did that waitress have something against her? Did she even know her?
All these questions kept piling up in her mind. She didn’t even know what to do now. Should she leave the restaurant? Should she try to talk to another waitress? And suddenly, the waitress that had refused to help with Courtney’s request came back. She was carrying something with her, but it was not a bag.
What Was It?
It was the meal she had asked for, plus some ice cream! But Courtney was still confused: why had she refused to give her the to-go bag?
The waitress would have time to make her reasons clear to the single mom. She served her the meal and sat at her table. It turned out that the two women had a lot more in common than one might think, and they had plenty to talk about.
“You’re going to sit down and enjoy your dinner, and I will be there to sit with her!” Nianni told the frazzled mother. Courtney was lost for words. Harlynn wouldn’t sit for her mother; she was hardly going to do it for a complete stranger.
Courtney wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. She was sick of people staring and whispering. But Harlynn was smitten. She sat giggling away with Nianni. Courtney couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
It Was Like They Knew Each Other
It almost seemed like little Harlynn, and the waitress had been friends forever. Courtney was amazed at how easily the waitress’ presence had calmed her down.
Courtney was glad that she didn’t have to go to her car to eat. But she was still asking herself what could be the reason behind the waitress’ generous gesture.
The answer to this question was simpler than one would think: the 22-year-old waitress could tell that Harlynn wasn’t feeling too well, and Courtney was quite stressed.
She felt sympathy for the single mom’s situation, as she was a single mom herself. The two women spent a while talking about the hardships of motherhood but also about its joys.
Courtney and Nianni spoke about the challenges single moms face when raising their children alone. Nianni told Courtney that she was raised by a single mom herself because her father had not been a part of her life. And sadly, her mother had passed away just two years ago.
"I'm just a college student with no parents trying to make ends meet,'' Nianni said. "It was great to get some time to sit down and talk to [Courtney]."
Nianni also told Courtney that she’d been working at Olive Garden for around two years - she had to get a steady job after her mom died from cancer.
Although she picks up as many shifts as she can, she was also studying at Durhan Technical Community College and pursuing an associate's degree. One day, she hoped to become an anesthesiologist.
Courtney told Nianni that she had also worked as a waitress, so she understood how difficult it must have been for the waitress to take the time to help her out. After chatting and entertaining Harlynn until Courtney had finished her meal, Niannai finally left the table to go and get the check.
When she came back, the two women embraced each other wholeheartedly. But after Courtney left, Niannai noticed that she had something in her apron’s pocket.
What Could It Be?
She had taken her apron off to sit down with Courtney and Harlynn, and it had stayed there while she went for the check. And aside from the meal’s price on the table, Courtney had left a $50 note in Niannai’s pocket as a tip!
Niannai’s gesture meant a lot to Courtney, and she wanted to show her appreciation somehow, within her limited means. This story is a prime example of solidarity and how each of us can do something to make others’ lives better - that’s why Courtney had to share it.
“I actually got to eat my food while it was still hot!” exclaimed Courtney in a now-viral Facebook post. And that’s not all she had to say.
“[Nianni] is just an awesome person,” Courtney said. “I was just in complete shock because nothing had ever happened to me like that. I just wanted to shine some light on the person she is.” How could someone who is already under so much stress from rush hour take the time to sit with her baby girl?
Nianni is no stranger to the mood swings of young children. Her niece has just graduated from the terrible twos and has now been accepted into the terrifying threes.
She knows how irritable children can get when they’re hungry, tired, grumpy, sad, happy, afraid, or confused. Her shift was nearly over anyway. And there was plenty of other staff on to help bustle tables. But what would her manager think of her taking a break?
Apparently, Nianni’s managers are more than understanding. “My managers are great,” Nianni explained.
“Our motto at Olive Garden is, ‘When you’re here, you’re family.’ If that’s all I had to do was sit down and take a couple of moments to help this young lady with her baby, I’d do it every day if I could.” And Nianni’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed.
Courtney was so touched by Nianni’s gesture that she dedicated a Facebook post to the server and her kindness – accompanied by a sweet photo of Rudder feeding Harlynn ice cream.
And after outlining the incident, Courtney went on to give Niannni considerable praise for her actions.
Courtney’s post on Facebook has gained thousands of likes and comments. The online community has raved about Nianni’s kind gesture.
Mothers, sisters, and aunts have shared their appreciation for understanding a mother’s plight. But was everyone in the restaurant that night as understanding?
“Girl, you will never truly know how appreciative I am for tonight,” gushed Courtney of her experience.
“I seriously admire you. Not only because you took the time to bribe my bratty little human with sweets so I could eat but because you are so strong!” But as far as Nianni is concerned, she was just doing her job.
Nianni, who has a three-year-old niece, understood what Courtney was going through and felt like she deserved to stay where she was.
She knew raising a child isn’t easy - especially when there’s no father in the picture. She knew this because her own mom had raised her all alone. She understood exactly what the stranger was going through.
“That’s Just What They Do”
“She came out to enjoy a meal with her family, and she should be able to do that,” Nianni told Today.
“I didn’t think she had to leave or go sit in the car to eat the food because her baby was fussy. They’re little kids, that’s just what they do.” A little compassion can go a long way.
It Takes A Village
The old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” is one that still rings true - even if we’ve moved away from that concept in modern society.
Single moms, in particular, need all the help they can get. Next time you see a mom struggling with her child, instead of getting annoyed, see if you can help out. Nianni’s help meant the world to Courtney!