At an IHOP in Springfield, Illinois, waiter Joe Thomas watched week after week as a man ignored his food and let his meal go cold while he fed his wife, who is unable to feed herself. Then, one week, Thomas could not let the man’s food go cold any longer. He stepped in and helped the woman eat her meal so that her husband could enjoy his food at the same time.
For the 11 years that Thomas has worked at that IHOP, he has been incredibly friendly with the regular customers, showing exceptional service to people who came in to eat. Dale and “Ma,” the names given to the couple by Thomas, were no exception. “‘I didn’t really offer. I just started doing it…I told the gentleman to ‘Sit down, eat your food. I got her,’” Thomas said to CBS News.
Dale and Thomas feed “Ma” every Saturday at IHOP because she has been diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, which prevents her from feeding herself. According to Huntington’s Disease Society of America, “Huntington’s disease (HD) is a fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person’s physical and mental abilities during their prime working years and has no cure.”
People typically begin to exhibit signs of HD when they are 30 to 50 years old and symptoms gradually worsen through the years. “Over time, HD affects the individual’s ability to reason, walk and speak,” according to Huntington’s Disease Society of America. Because the disease affects cognition and movement, “Ma” struggles with feeding herself.
“She is able to eat, say, grapes or apple slices, but struggles with utensils,” according to TODAY. Luckily, she has a helping hand in Thomas, who says he has “always helped out people regardless of whoever, whatever.”
IHOP spokesperson Stephanie Peterson told TODAY, “From everything we’ve heard about Joe, it is in his nature to go above and beyond for his guests and this gesture simply reflects who he is. As a brand, we are incredibly proud of the heartwarming moments like this that take place in our restaurants every day.” She and local IHOP franchisee Larry McDonald were “touched by Thomas’s kind act,” according to TODAY.
An IHOP customer, Keshia Dotson, who was eating at the restaurant on a day that Thomas was feeding “Ma”, captured the kind act of humanity and posted it to Facebook. After the post went viral, Dotson spoke with Dale, who expressed his gratitude for Thomas. “[Dale] and ‘Ma’ want to thank everyone for the kind words. They are so thrilled that Joe is receiving ‘all the recognition he deserves.’”
Because of all the attention surrounding Dotson’s post, Thomas’ kind act has received plenty of attention. According to TODAY, Thomas has “even been approached about a future in nursing since the photo went viral. He’s not quite sure what his next step will be, yet, though he says that he’d love to get back into his work as a rehab technician one day.”
Thanks to his background as a rehab technician, his friendly nature, and his kind heart, Thomas was able to restore faith in humanity and he is finally receiving widespread recognition for his kind act.
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