The day another mom paid for my son’s Happy Meal

By Brittany Meng, Creator and Editor of Mothering Beyond Expectations

I was already on shaky emotional ground when I left to take Benji to therapy. It’s never a good sign when you break down and cry on the phone with your Health Insurance agent.

Why is insurance so freakin’ hard to understand?
Can you please explain what you are saying in plain English?
Why are they not covering these therapies for my son?
Why am I having to choose between helping my son and paying our bills?

My thoughts ran ragged but I tried to be polite on the phone, “I’m not annoyed at you…it’s just this situation…” I told the agent.

I found a roll of toilet paper on my night stand, tore off a wad and swiped my cheeks and nose.

Crap. It is 10:37. I have to pick up Benji at 10:40.

I rushed out the door.

When I got to school, I realized that I forgot to pack him lunch and because his appointment is over the lunch hour, he would miss school lunch by the time he got back.

I texted my husband: #failfailfail

He tried to bolster my spirits: Try not to stress. Just pick up food on the way home.

Armed with a stack of bills and insurance statements, I sent my 8 year old to therapy while I waited my turn to talk to the billing woman at the Autism Center.

She was kind and encouraging but I didn’t get any answers today. Soon. (the story of my life. This saga needs to end soon).

Something upset him at the end of the therapy session and instead of walking calmly out of the Occupational Therapy room like he usually did, Benji bolted out of the office and out the front door. I had to chase him down the sidewalk; I didn’t even get a chance to hear how his appointment went from his therapist.

“How about we get lunch out? McDonalds?”

And then he was all smiles; his bad mood floated away. If only the pressures of motherhood could melt away so easily.

The clock was ticking down. I had 23 minutes to get food for Benji, then drive to the other side of town to pick up my 3 year old from preschool by noon. It was going to be tight.

I quickly ordered a Big Kids chicken nugget meal from the drive through, breathing a sigh of relief that there was only one car in front of us in line.
Then I reached in my purse for my wallet…

…and remembered that it was on my bed at home, my insurance cards strewn about on the bedspread.

No. no no no no. Wait! Checkbook. Please, please take checks!

I pulled up to the window. “Do you take checks?” My voice was shaking, falsely cheerful.

“No, we don’t.”

And everything crumpled: my shoulders, my head, my whole body sagged. I burst into tears.

“Oh, oh! Don’t be upset!” The young woman in the drive-thru window exclaimed.

“I don’t have any money!” I sobbed. “I don’t have lunch for my son! I left my wallet at home…it was the insurance…I was on the phone with them and…and this is just the worst day ever!”

I knew I was blabbering like an idiot, but I couldn’t stop. Tears streamed down my face.

“Hold on, hold on!” She dashed away from the window.

All I could do was hold my temples between my thumb and forefinger and cry.

Then she was back. “I got this. We got this. Don’t worry about paying today.”


The tears fell harder. “Oh…no…! No! Please, you don’t have to do that…! I–”

“Now, then! You are going to make me cry! I have kids too. It’s ok. You’re going to be ok. Today is going to get better, you’ll see.”

I pulled forward and my wet, streaming eyes were met by another women’s, whose face held compassion and tenderness as she handing me a Happy Meal box and a bottle of chocolate milk for my baby.

Thank you,” I gulped, my voice cracking. “Thank you.”

I pulled out of the parking lot, my eyes still blurred with tears as I turned my heart-gaze heavenward:

Thank you.

It was a gift of amazing, unmerited, overflowing grace in the McDonald’s Drive-Thru.

Have you experienced uncommon kindness on this difficult road of parenthood? Share your story below or on our Facebook page.

A version of this article first appeared on TheBamBlog.


  1. Finicky Cat

    What a beautiful story! Right now, in the thick of trying to raise my own six while navigating my own severe issues (#failfailfail is SO familiar), I feel like I don’t even notice the opportunities to lift up other mothers — but that is my great ambition for my retirement years. I want to be the quiet old lady at daily Mass who holds your baby so you can focus (and rest your shoulders and maybe even pray). I want to be woman at the grocery store who stops you to praise your adorable little ones (even as they shriek happily, running up and down the aisles). I want to be the mystery-patron who leaves payment at the restaurant for the young family at the next table (whose special-needs preteen threw his plate in the floor three times). Thanks for the inspiration!

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