Have you ever just had one of those days?
Well, Janice Mathews, of North Arlington, was having one a few weeks ago. She was busy at work at the Arlington Diner, where she works usually from 2 to 10 p.m. The restaurant was pretty packed. And she knew when her shift was over, she was going to have to go food shopping.
Who wants to do that after being on your feet for eight hours?
Well, fortunately for Mathews, things worked out pretty remarkably that day, because in the diner as she was hard at work were six 20-somethings who she was serving. Someone among the party must have overheard her, because what they would wind up doing — even before her shift ended — was nothing short of spectacular, memorable, emotional, some might even say a downright modern-day miracle.
“At first I thought, ‘oh well, I am just going to have to go for the groceries another time,’” Mathews recalls of that day. “It was just too busy that day and I was going to have to stay around a little longer.”
When this group of young adults were finished with their meal, it was then that the extraordinary chain of events started to happen. First, it was the tip they left Mathews.
“It was $25!” she says of the unexpected gratuity. “I’ve been at the diner for a long time, but this one was special.”
It sure seems so. But this was only the beginning.
When Mathews thanked to group for their generosity, she got to chatting with them — it was four women and two men — and she told them she wasn’t going to make her appointment at FoodTown.
“And then one of them says, ‘we can do it for you, just make a list. We will shop for you,’” Mathews says. “So I made a list of about 10 things. Nothing too big. They insisted on going for me.”
So once this initial act of kindness was over, Mathews says she reached for her wallet to give the young ones cash to pay for the groceries.
“And would you believe it? They wouldn’t take the money. They told me they were going to treat me for Mother’s Day,” Mathews says. “It was just too much to believe — but it was real.”
It sure was.
But it didn’t even end here.
Once they finished the grocery shopping, the group came back to the diner and drove Mathews back to her place in North Arlington. It’s about five blocks away from the diner and she says she had been planning on ordering an Uber to get home.
But these kids would have none of that. Instead, they took her home.
When she got upstairs, Mathews says the crazy streak of kindness just kept on coming. Among the groceries was an inspirational greeting card. One of the kids hand-wrote: “Your service today has touched our hearts. God had us come to the Arlington Diner for a purpose. We pray this food blesses you. You are loved, you are worthy, you are amazing, you are treasured. You may not see us again but we will be praying for you.”
Oh and inside the greeting? A $50 gift card for more items for Janice to get on her own.
“I knew eggs were expensive these days so I didn’t want to overburden them by asking for eggs,” she says. “But they did that, and even though I asked for one pack of chicken cutlets, they got like six of them. They brought back three cases of water, too! These people didn’t even know me but they were incredibly kind. It was so much to take in.”
Indeed, it must have been overwhelming for Mathews, who has been at the diner for 22 years.
And it all reminded her of the four months she was out of work during the COVID-19 pandemic, the reality her daughter-in-law is in dire need of a kidney for transplant and that she herself had, yet conquered, breast cancer.
“I’ve had a lot of bad happen, but this was just amazing,” she says.
And when she got home, she couldn’t wait to tell her husband — who was fast asleep — all that had just gone down. And sure enough, he was, indeed, amazed. As was Janice. And we’d venture to say anyone who reads this.
“I was so blessed to meet such great people,” she says. “This was a day I will never forget.”
Neither will we.
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.