Rostraver Eat’n Park waiter serves up simple act of kindness to WWII veteran
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.
Or so the saying goes.
On Saturday evening, Lisa Meilander saw an example of simple kindness that so struck her she decided to post something publicly about it on Facebook.
“I don’t normally make my posts public,” she said.
What happened next has left her in a state of pleased disbelief.
Her post about a young restaurant server who showed kindness to a 91-year-old veteran went viral over the weekend, garnering 160,000 “likes” and 11,000 comments. The post, which includes two pictures of the unlikely encounter, has been shared 46,000 times.
“I had no idea that would happen. God put us at the right place at the right time,” Meilander said. “It was really pretty amazing.”
The post shows Dylan Tetil, a 24-year-old server at the Rostraver Eat’n Park, crouching down to take the man’s order and then sitting and chatting with him once his food arrived.
Meilander, a preschool teacher from Elizabeth Township, said she and her family were at a round table across from the booth where the World War II veteran sat and could see and hear everything that transpired.
“The man apologized for not hearing too well. He had forgotten to put in his hearing aids. He talked about how he lost his hearing during his time in the war. He was 91 years old with many stories to tell. Dylan patiently listened giving him his full attention,” she posted on Facebook.
“Eventually the man apologized for talking so much. ‘I’m alone now,’ he said, ‘and I don’t often have someone to talk to.’ Dylan smiled and said he enjoyed listening. He then helped him figure out what to order and left to take it to the kitchen. It was a touching sight,” the post said.
“After the man received his food, Dylan came back to say he was on a break. He asked if he could sit with the gentleman as he ate. As we left the restaurant the two of them were conversing and many people seated nearby were smiling,” the post said.
Meilander said she tried to pay for the man’s dinner but someone beat her to it. She decided to post something because she felt Tetil’s actions deserved some recognition. It was when she shared the post with Facebook pages for McKeesport and Elizabeth Township that the post started going viral.
“I’m just happy he’s getting all this attention. I’m just the messenger,” she said.
Tetil, a radiology student at Westmoreland County Community College, has been working at the Rostraver Eat’n Park for three months but had never seen the man before. Other servers at the restaurant said he was a regular but didn’t know his name.
After the man was seated, he told the waiter that he wanted chicken. “I could tell as soon as I went up to him that he was eager to talk,” Tetil said. “I brought him out his water, and he was like, ‘Please come back,’ and I said, ‘You know I will.’ ”
Tetil brought him his meal of grilled chicken, mashed potatoes and apple pie, and sat with him for a couple minutes. He checked on his other tables and then returned to talk to the man some more.
“He mainly just told me his war stories from World War II and his life. He kind of seemed like he felt underappreciated,” Tetil said. “No one around us minded it because they knew what was happening.”
Despite the age difference, Tetil said he felt a connection with the customer. “It was just two human beings talking,” he said.
Eat’n Park spokesman Kevin O’Connell said the Homestead-based restaurant chain hopes the man returns.
“We don’t know exactly who he is, but we’re on the lookout for him,” he said.
As for the server, O’Connell said Tetil obviously relied on a combination of his upbringing and his training.
“We call ourselves ‘The Place for Smiles,’ and we train our employees to look for opportunities to serve,” he said. “Dylan obviously really embraced that goal. … I think people are looking for kindness and human connection in the world, which is why it went viral.”
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter .