Lincoln waitress receives the tip of a lifetime

January 05, 2014 6:00 pm
By PETER SALTER / Lincoln Journal Star

The Cracker Barrel customer had a checkbook, and what he wrote in it after lunch Thursday would make his happy server even happier, but first he and his friend had a few questions.

They asked the hostess: Can you give us your grumpiest server? We want to make them laugh.

Sorry, the hostess said. Nobody grumpy here. I’ll seat you with our happiest.

At Table 222, they asked Abigail Sailors for the special — turkey and dressing — and for eggs and sausage.

Then they asked the 18-year-old why she was so happy.

And over the course of their meals, she told them.

About her childhood. The youngest of five from Falls City was just 7 months old when her parents crashed their car on the back roads to St. Joseph, Mo. Her mother never fully recovered from her brain injury, and her father wasn’t fit to be a father.

They were scattered to three foster homes, then reunited under the same roof. They endured abuse there for years, said Abigail’s older sister, Sydnie Murphy. That foster father is still in prison.

“All the horror stories you hear about foster care,” Sydnie said, “we lived through it.”

The state split them again — some to other homes, Abigail and Sydnie and a brother eventually to their father’s house. But then he was arrested for abuse, too.


They didn’t find real stability until about nine years ago, when John and Susi Sailors took them in. And kept them. And raised them. And loved them like they love their own five children.

“It’s a great home, great people, amazing,” said Abigail, who took their last name. “I don’t know how I would have turned out if I didn’t have them. They shaped the person I am today.”

Abigail still sees her birth mom. In fact, she and Sydnie were picking her up at her rehabilitation home in Omaha and taking her out for pizza Thursday night.

After she talked about her past, Abigail told her customers about her future. Which was on hold. She had just finished her first semester at Trinity Bible College in North Dakota, where she’s studying youth ministry and psychology.

But she’s paying her own way, and didn’t have enough money for the spring semester. So she was saving her wages and tips to add to her financial aid, and planned to return next fall. She was thinking about taking online courses until then.

“She’s always been a good worker and paid her own bills and saved her money,” her foster father said. “She’s a great girl. It’s amazing where she is from, what she’s been through.”

And that — all of that — was why she was so happy, the server told her customers.

Her life could be worse. But it isn’t.

“I’m just thankful. Everything we went through, my attitude is: God blessed me with a lot of things. I’m doing good. That’s all that matters to me.”

The customers — one older, one middle-aged — kept asking questions. Abigail kept answering. She didn’t know them. They weren’t regulars at the north Lincoln restaurant. She did learn they were from Nebraska, and she learned their names, but didn’t feel right sharing them.

When the men were finished eating, one told her he had graduated from Trinity.

He opened his checkbook.

He wrote one check to the college for $5,000, for her tuition.

He wrote one check to her for $1,000, for whatever she needed.

He left a $100 tip she split with another server.

52c8893864ffd.preview-620And Abigail, who’d felt like she already had so much, now had even more.

“I couldn’t believe it. I tried to thank them, and they said, ‘thank God.’”

?Reach Peter Salter at 402-473-7254 or

33 responses to “Lincoln waitress receives the tip of a lifetime

  1. This is so amazing because I do believe that there are a lot of the happiest people that just have the most heartfelt stories that people cannot imagine them going through.

  2. Such a great story very inspirational never give up. Very generous for that man to write a check for her college tuition.

  3. This is such an amazing story. I love hearing about these types of stories where people will leave very generous tips to their servers. I myself have not been a waitress before but working in customer service I can only imagine all they have to put up with while only earning about minimun wage. It’s also amazing that she was such a happy person regardless of her terrifying past. Its nice seeing people look at life in a positive way rather than be upset and negative over the negativity in their lives.

  4. Just for someone to have that much positivity throughout the life she’s been through so far, is just amazing. And for people like the man who wrote the checks, they have huge hearts are are very giving. I try to give when I can. Whether it be a hand to help, or giving someone directions, maybe some money to so,Rome who needs it, even though I need it too. Makes me think I should always look at life In a positive way.

  5. People cannot choose their births, but they can decide how to live with it. Abigail’s optimism and her faith to live a better life offer her a different path to reach her happiness. Complaints and tears only would worsen the situation, put a smile on and the God will see it

  6. Wow that is an amazing story. Her story is very sad, but she is fighting back and never give up. I am glad that there are still people out their that help people like her.

  7. such a nice story, I myself believe that most people if not all are nice people and she did deserve a tip that big but always be thankful!

  8. As a server/waitress myself, this story hits straight to home. Unless you’re in the business, people really have no idea what it takes to serve numerous people on a daily basis and still maintain a smile on your face. Aside from her troubles, Abigail was a happy young lady and it reflected on her attitude, which ultimately earned her fat tip. So refreshing to learn of such human compassion. Thank you for sharing this!

  9. I really enjoyed reading this story. A lot of times we complain about our situation when the reality is that we have it so much better than a lot of other people. It is so important to be grateful for what we have and to learn to be happy with what life hand us. This story had such a sweet ending, I’m really glad that Abigail received help from these people.

  10. After reading this short story I was reminded of a youtube channel that is based on giving back to people. Stories like these give me goose bumps because this is a humanity that cares for others to purse their dreams. I hope someday I can influence or help influence someone life in an impacting way wether it be money or something other then money.

  11. What a great story and individual. I’m a firm believer in karma and I believe this person deserved this tip. I know I would be super stoked and grateful if I received a tip that generous.

  12. This is such a beautiful story. I love that even through all the bad that she went through she still happened to be a bright and nice person because many people become bitter. It’s great how these people decided to bless her with the money to be able to attend school. She deserves the money more than anything.

  13. This story reminds me of Matthew 6:33 “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” I love how her faith in God didn’t allow her to focus on the hardshhip that she endured, but the future that she was set on. She believed in god through it alll and thats so awsome. Then, by spreading his word, God turned around and blessed her with tuition and spending money. The best part about this story is she then split the 100 dollar tip with anothe server. This is a great story. Definately share worthy.

  14. This story is amazing. It’s inspiring to know that she has been through so much, yet she still is the happiest waitress where she works. It makes me feel more thanful for the life that I have.

  15. It’s always impressive that people are moved by others due to their life story or whatever it may be. We can always ask for more people like this, but people I’m sure whine and complain about not getting something like this. It’s neat though that they we’re generous enough to help this girl out

  16. Katarina Ponomaroff

    This story is inspiring because she is known as the happiest waitress at her work and she appears to have a sad and dark childhood behind her. It is crazy how the experiences you go through make you the person you are. This woman, Abigail, inspired me because she works so hard to get herself put through school and this random person who left her such a great tip helped her out greatly and I believe it was an act of kindness amongst good karma as well. No matter how rough life may be, the future holds your destiny.

  17. Chivalry is still alive. Some people want the world to be better place. These men were great people.

  18. Faith in humanity restored. This girl is very lucky and was blessed.

  19. Random Acts of Kindness. Lucky girl. Blessed.

  20. wow how lucky is she! it always nice to hear stories like these and see that here is generous people like this still around.

  21. It is great to hear a story like this one. It is really inspirational and reminds me to keep my faith in God. I love how much she went through as a child but, she did not hold onto it or else she probally would have been mad at the world. I love going to restaurants that have happy waiters or waitress it makes my day.

  22. Rosamaria Valdez-Lopez

    This is so sweet. My parents did this for a waitress too, not as much money though! They tipped her i think $150 because she had told them that she was running low on her money and they said that they hoped it would help her.

  23. This story was great to read. The strength of faith and knowing God is always there with one through adversity. She found the beautiful strength that is in her. I am going to share this story.

  24. Amazing story! Through her faith she was rewarded. How wonderful for that girl to be able to attend college without financial hassle. Those people who came in to the restaurant have kind souls.

  25. Wow, this story is one of those you can tell to inspire many others. She didn’t have hate but happiness and for a person who went through all that it must have been hard but she overcame it. She takes the best from it and has turned her life around she deserves the best.

  26. Amen.
    This is a beautiful story.
    Many times I get too caught up in what is going wrong with my life that I forgot to think about what is going right in it.

    “Count your blessings, not your troubles”
    You will have a longer list of things to smile about.

  27. What an amazing story. Stories like these help me believe there is still a chance for humanity. This type of behavior should be past along.

  28. What a wonderful story. It’s sad how many people say, “I’ve lost faith in humanity” when there are still so many extraordinarily kind people like this in the world.

  29. This is a very interesting story. It teaches me to be grateful for the family that i have and to not take them for granted.

  30. I know that there still good people in the world today, if you just thank God for what you have, and not feel sorry for yourself life will get better, because the LORD sit high and looks low mand see everthings that goes on.

  31. It is amazing that here are still amazing people in the world. I know there are groups of people who RAK(Random Acts of Kindness). These RAKs can be something from leaving a 5 dollar bill on someones car, or going the dollar tree and leaving dollars in the isels for people to find, or paying someones bill at dinner.

  32. Priscilla K. Cornejo

    Stories like this remind us how there are people out there that are just so generous, kind and just like to help others out of the kindness of their heart. I loved this story it reminded me of another story in Portland when a waitress working at Flatbread received a $500 dollar tip from a man who left 41,000 in tips across country, that was a heartwarming video just like this story.

  33. Wow it’s amazing that there are still nice people out there willing to help others. I enjoyed reading this story and I believe everything happens for a reason. This girl works hard and has been through a lot. I think she deserves what was offered to her and that she is very blessed.

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