An Open Letter to the Waitress at Steak ‘n Shake

steak n shakeDear Waitress at the Frankfort (Kentucky) Steak ‘n Shake Who Served Us Saturday Night:

As a waitress in a 24-hour sit-down fast-food restaurant, I’m sure that you get a lot of odd requests — especially from harried parents dealing with children in a visually stimulating (black and white checkered decor), cold, audibly loud environment. But, I have to tell you, you handled our table with grace and calmness that belied the busy dining room.

hotdogWhen we ordered a hotdog for our autistic 9-year-old son, Scott, and explained that the mustard must be made in a squiggly line on top of the hotdog — much like one would see on any picture of any hotdog in any children’s book — you never even batted an eye. You had no idea that if he’d received a hotdog without mustard or with the mustard NOT in a squiggling line in such a loud, cold, visually stimulating environment, it would have likely caused a meltdown for which there may have been no immediate recovering. You just nodded, smiled, said you understood, and brought us a PERFECT hotdog. You made sure the milkshake had a cherry, and brought him a salad as a side to his kids’ meal even though that isn’t the norm.

All in all, you were a fantastic waitress and we had a meal with no issues. As the mother of a child diagnosed with “Autism Spectrum Disorder manifested by issues in reading and auditory comprehension,  issues in interpersonal relationships, and issues in sensory processing with an above average raw intelligence”, I can assure you that many meals out aren’t handled so smoothly, and many waitresses and waiters truly don’t have any desire to cater to the odd requests of one small family.

When we encounter wait staff like you, we always make sure the tip is padded. I hope you were blessed by that.

We had to eat and run in a hurry. We had a meeting an hour away and only had 45 minutes to get there. So, we left and were halfway to our meeting when Scott realized that he’d left his “Joy” toy on the table.

You have no way of knowing this, but the things that are special to Scott are obsessively special to him.

I don’t use the term obsessively lightly.

scott joyJoy is the emotion “joy” from the recent movie Inside Out. We watch the previews about forty-three thousand times a day. His wish list for his birthday this Friday is the entire set of action figure emotions from the movie. Right now, he only owns Joy and she goes everywhere with him – from bed to bath to table to bike, she is in his hand or pocket.

There was no meltdown when he realized he’d left Joy. There was more like an “off” button. His entire body deflated, his face completely fell, and he had no emotion whatsoever. We told him we’d stop and purchase a new one. He emotionlessly said he didn’t want another one.

When we left the meeting at nearly nine that night, we thought we’d try to call your restaurant. The woman who answered the phone told us that they’d found Joy and had kept her for us. The hour-long drive to your restaurant was probably the longest drive in Scott’s life.

When we took Scott into the restaurant to get Joy, we found out that she had been given a tour of the kitchen, and had ridden in the pockets of many staff members so that she could get as many experiences as possible before we returned to pick her up. When you came to talk to us, you told us you had a feeling she was important to Scott and you knew we would come back for her.

I find myself unable to come up with words to express my gratitude for the gentle care you gave our son and his lost toy Saturday night. It would have been easy to ignore the request for mustard, a salad, a cherry, and to just toss the piece of plastic in the garbage when the table was bussed. But, you listened, you heard, and you loved him even though you didn’t know him.

I don’t know if you have any idea of the obstacles he’s going to face in his lifetime. We don’t even know. We’re spending his childhood trying to prepare him and teach him coping skills for surviving and thriving in this dark and fallen world. When we receive little bits of light from people like you, it gives us hope for what the future holds.

Thank you for the joy you gave us.

In Christ,

Gregg and Hallee Bridgeman


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  1. It is small things in our lives that make or ruin a day. For your little guy, this is all the more the case. Keep up the good work of recognizing those who get that!!! God bless you and Scott and the unnamed waitress.

    • Noel on July 15, 2015 at 09:29
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    The server’s name was De’Asia by the way. And I’m super proud of her. I work there as well.

    • lisa on July 15, 2015 at 09:32
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    Jaime M Brannock from Facebook says
    “De’Asia was server. I was woman on the phone. And Joy was in Georgia Rae’s pocket when they came to pick it up”

    1. You all rocked! It’s always special to see some one we love taken care of so well – from our friend Scott to his Joy.
      Heather M recently posted…My Favorite Cherry Recipes for National Cherry DayMy Profile

    • Debra on July 15, 2015 at 09:54
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    Such a exceptional waitress! She must be a beautiful person.

    • DeAsia Jackson on July 15, 2015 at 17:53
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    It is stories like these that make me love what I do! I plan to be a registered nurse , therefore, special request stand out to me because I am aware that sometimes the little things can make a person’s day. Scott and his friend [brother] were awesome, as they complimented me the whole time,especially about my bow tie. I knew it was my duty to get that swirly mustard , I kept bugging the kitchen about it. I had a blast serving you and I’m sure Scott was happy to know that we took very good care of Joy!

      • Hallie on July 15, 2015 at 19:45
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      Well De’Asia, I’m a RN and I am glad to know that’s what you plan to do. The profession will be blessed to call you one of our own! It takes a lot of hard work and determination but it’s all worth it so never give up!

    1. Thank you for replying. I’m glad you could see how much your heart brought joy to so many people. This article/letter is getting so much attention and your actions have touched many hearts this week.
      You will be an excellent nurse.

    • Beverlee Dowdy on July 15, 2015 at 19:54
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    Hats off DeAsia! I have a special needs brother who I am the main caregiver/guardian for. It is those little things that to us are not important, but to them oh my. I would try to walk to the corners of the earth to make things right for Brad.
    May God richly bless you for your compassion of the needs of others.
    Good luck on your future…..don’t just follow that dream of being a nurse, CATCH IT!!!!!
    AND blessings to Scott, phone call receiver and anyone else involved!!!!!

    • Tina Kidd on July 15, 2015 at 20:25
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    I have a special needs grandson who was born with spina bifida. I love when people come up and talk to him and treat him like a normal 6 year old little boy. He has no mental deficiencies and is such an inspiration to any one who meets him. Even though he completely understands all that goes on around him, some may not. I don’t call him disabled, I call him differently abled. He is our little hero, just like the server is yours. You will be an awesome nurse, don’t give up, you have the heart and soul that says you can do this!

  2. I happened upon this post when a friend of mine shared it on FB. I have many friends with kids on the spectrum, sometimes multiple kids. I know how important the “little things” are. I was a nurse for twenty years before cervical spine herniations and pain (unrelieved by 4 surgeries and all the therapies, procedures, and meds available) disabled me. It gives me hope to see that there are nurses and nurses-to-be out there with the compassion needed for those little details. I’d always been detail-oriented, but when I made the unwanted change from caregiver to patient I realized just how important those little things can be.

  3. This is absolutely BEAUTIFUL…. thank you for sharing

    shelly radley recently posted…Good EVEning Mammy No’1 – 4th December 2014My Profile

    • Doneita on July 16, 2015 at 06:53
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    Good morning Gregg and Hallee,

    I’m De’Asia’ mother and this story blessed me to read it this morning. However, I’m not surprised at all by my daughter’s service to your family. She has always been an Awesome and Amazing daughter and has made being a mommy effortless for me. It’s always a great feeling when your child is doing what you’ve taught them outside of the home. Thank you so much for sharing your letter, and may God continue to bless your family. Also, thanks for the padded tip, DE’ASIA is working to help pay for her nursing books and other expenses related to college as I’m sure you’re aware Hallee being that you are a RN as well, so be assured whatever you left was well spent. Thank you!

    1. I’m so happy that you were told about this article/letter. What a blessing to hear from you.
      I am actually not an RN. I am an author. I write Christian fiction and whole food cookbooks. Another commenter with the same name is an RN — and if you knew how uncommon the name Hallee/Hallie is, you’d think it was neat that she commented, too!

      God bless you and your family,

    • Isaac E. Hayes on July 16, 2015 at 08:23
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    Hi De’Asia this is your cousin from Chicago, Isaac! It’s a blessing to read the awesome work you are doing! May God continue to shine God’s favor and grace in your life. You will be a blessing to so many people in the world. Have a blessed summer!!

    • Mary Bardin on July 17, 2015 at 05:58
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    This story absolutely filled my heart with joy. I have a grandson with autism, and I know how important it was to him to keep Joy with him. I think the extra mile hotdog was a life saver for him. I can imagine what would have happened if the hot dog wasn’t exactly like he wanted. I will be in Frankfort today, and I will ask for you D’Asia

    • JaneWatts on July 17, 2015 at 12:08
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    I love our Steak and Shake here in Frankfort and since I go thru the drive in I have got to know Joshlin and she is wonderful always so nice and helpful I really like her and consider her an asset to he store thanks to all the great workers there

    • Andrea Herz Payne on July 17, 2015 at 18:53
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    De’ Asia, you and the Steak N Shake staff are angels! In the midst of a busy work day, it can be challenging to keep our patience and our hearts open …and….you’ve reminded us all of the difference we can make.

    Hallee, if you hadn’t taken the time to write such an evocative and touching acknowledgement of De’Asia and the S&S team, none of us would ever have known about it. Thank you for reminding us how important it is to take the time to appreciate others and thank you for giving us all the opportunity to be lifted up!

    With love and appreciation – Andrea

    • Dena on July 27, 2015 at 18:00
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    This story brings so much Joy to my heart. I am so glad that such a beautiful person was able to care for such a beautiful family. I believe that people like De’Asia are what keeps this world from becoming an even darker place. I am glad to hear that she will be a RN. That sounds like the perfect career choice for someone with such a big heart!

  4. As an employee of Steak ‘n Shake, I am very pleased to have read this story about one of my colleagues. I am a part of our HR team and De’Asia is a great example of the wonderful people we strive to hire and work with. Because good deeds like this matter to all of us, our guests and the rest of our team. Wonderful job, De’Asia. Thank you for making us all aware of her, Hallee. And of the rest of our crew who pitched in to help. I am glad to hear that Scott was reunited with Joy, because it does matter and it is important. Thank you, De’Asia, and team, for interacting with our guests in a very human and genuine manner. This is why I’m proud to call you my colleagues.

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