Sean Whalen, from the United States, is the only parent for his three kids. When he went to a restaurant with them one night, he told them about what had happened in their family 30 years earlier: “I will never forget the day my parents split up. My dad and I had a fight. My mother, my younger brother, and I had to stay in a hotel that night because my father was out of control. When we came back the next evening, all the locks had been changed. I remember how my mom begged him to let us at least pick up things. He didn’t. He did this by calling the police.

They gave me a black bag and told me I have 10 minutes to get everything I need out of it. The bag only had clothes in it. That was the last time I walked through the front door of my childhood home. I left my baseball trophies. 10,000 baseball cards, all certificates. All. Even the turtle was taken away from me.

We moved into a small shed, and we had nothing with us. People from the church brought us beds, chairs, food, and pots and pans. The father took all of the savings out of the bank account, leaving only pocket money for the mother. She wasn’t able to do anything. There was no family or relatives nearby. No help, except from those strange church people. How the mother didn’t die then, I don’t know. I would have stopped right away. But she never even considered it.

When I became a single parent myself, I finally understood what my mom did for us. When she was young, it was hard to picture what she did for us. Mother worked hard to make sure that my brother and I had everything we needed.

When my son and I went to our favorite bad Chinese restaurant in the evening, I was surprised to see a new waitress. She was easy to see right away. The Chinese owned it. The workers are all Chinese. And all of a sudden, this small creature with white skin. She did a great job of serving, said nice things about my son, and admired how well he behaved. After dinner, we talked for a while. I learned from our talk that she is also a single parent. She didn’t want to work in a dirty Chinese restaurant that night, but she did it anyway. My heart broke in two.

I thought right away of my mother. I saw the same kind of woman in her that I had always seen in my mother. Mom living alone. She might have wanted that. Maybe not. Not sure. I know one thing: she works every night to make sure that the kids always have food to eat and shoes to wear. She doesn’t want to be known. Not to make a living. Just to get by. For the smiles on her children’s faces. I know how she feels. To be honest, I still don’t know how women deal with things.

I know that my tip won’t be enough to pay all of her bills. I know that you can’t get braces for your kids or fill the fridge with this money. I just hope that because I made her smile today, she will be happier than usual when she gets home.

I don’t know about her past. I don’t need it, so yes. I just thought that one day, out of the blue, someone helped my mother in such a good way. When she just wanted to throw everything away, someone kind just sat down and talked with her. This gave her hope.

I feel very lucky to have my mother. She showed me every step of the way, from the beginning to the end. She taught me to stand straight. I hope that when that mother from the Chinese restaurant wakes up tomorrow, she has more strength, realizes how much she means to her children, and is ready to fight for life again. Respect to all single moms! Your kids will learn a lot from you because you are so great. They’re looking at you and keeping an eye on you. I used to look at my mother the same way.