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Waffle House diner gives out $13K to strangers with a touching note: ‘Love every body’

The man says he was inspired by his late mother to give away over $13,000 in cash to random people since 2014.
"Saw this man sitting by himself at a Waffle House in Midway, Florida," tweeted Kevin Cate.
"Saw this man sitting by himself at a Waffle House in Midway, Florida," tweeted Kevin Cate.@KevinCate via Twitter

A wholesome Waffle House experience is offering Twitter users some much-needed comfort.

Over the weekend, a now-viral Twitter thread detailed an interaction between two diners — one of whom was sitting at a booth sorting through a bundle of cash.

“Saw this man sitting by himself at a Waffle House in Midway, Florida. So I said hello and asked him what he was doing with that money,” Kevin Cate, an ad maker based in Florida, tweeted on July 9. The post featured an image of a man sitting at a booth by himself with a spread of cash before him, pinning a note with the words “Love Every Body” to a $5 bill.

Speaking with TODAY Food, Cate explained that he spotted the man while looking up from his breakfast of waffles, eggs and a side of hash browns (covered, diced and smothered). Cate was with his wife and three children and was halfway through his meal when the man took a seat by himself.

“I saw him sit down by himself, and I gave him a wave because he was eating alone and, you know, just wanted to be friendly,” said Cate. “When I was checking out, you know, I saw him organizing gobs of money in front of him, and I just struck up a conversation.”

In time, the conversation turned to the green elephant in the room.

“Eventually, it was like, ‘What the heck are you doing with all this money?’” Cate explained. "And that’s when he told me the story."

“He told me that since 2014, he’s been handing out $1s and $5s to strangers, here and elsewhere,” Cate tweeted. “He said he’s given away more than $13,000 to strangers, kids and people he meets at Waffle House (his favorite) and elsewhere. And they all come with that note you see in the picture. He copies and cut(s) these out every few days.”

Kevin Cate says the man at the diner even insisted on giving money to him and his daughter before they departed.
Kevin Cate says the man at the diner even insisted on giving money to him and his daughter before they departed.Courtesy Kevin Cate

The note, pictured in the image Cate referred to in his tweet, turned out to be three words that the man has chosen to live by.

“It says ‘love every body,’” Cate shared in the tweet. “He told me those were the last three words his mother said to him. And he says it to me again. She didn’t say ‘I love you.’ She said, ‘love every body.’ So that’s what I’m doing. Loving every body.”

Cate noted to TODAY that there are details of the story he left out, including the fact that the fellow Waffle House patron received the last words of wisdom from his mother while she was battling cancer. Those final words were said before she slipped into a coma.

“One of the striking parts of the story for me was just that a story is essentially like a promise: ‘I’m gonna tell you something, and you’re gonna take something away from it,’” he remarked, adding, “And I took a step back when he said, ‘She didn’t say I love you. She said to love everybody.’”

TODAY reached out to Waffle House for a statement and with help in tracking down the man in the photo, whose name Cate was not able to readily recall. As of this publication, Waffle House had not yet learned the identity of the generous customer but did offer a statement to TODAY via email:

It is a heart-warming story that couldn’t come at a better time than this, given all the turmoil in the world today. This Customer’s actions reflect the best of humankind — the desire to help others and let them know you care. In a world where it may seem easy to forget that goodness thrives and lives in the hearts of many, we support and encourage this Customer’s acts of kindness towards others. Sometimes all the world needs is a priceless reminder such as this one.

waffle house spokesperson

So far, the man and his late mother’s message has been shared over 10,000 times on Twitter, thanks to Cate’s thread. Cate’s tweet has also inspired thousands of comments, many with heartfelt stories from users touched by the interaction and inspired to share their own experiences of feeling loved and learning to extend love to strangers.

“I was really struggling as a single mom hadn’t eaten anything in 3 days ended up passing out at work from hunger just shook it off with my coworkers,” one user explained in reaction to Cate’s tweet. “The homeless guy who worked in the warehouse must have caught on. He was living at the shelter. He started bringing me sandwiches.”

“I once gave a guy a $5 bill at McDonald’s. Said he had just gotten out of prison and needed bus fare to get home across town. All he had was a check (a check!) the prison had given him. He was going to sign it over to me for bus fare. I gave him the $5,” one user recalled in a tweet response. “He went to the counter, … bought a sandwich and drink to get the change he needed, gave the food to a homeless guy outside, and got on the bus. You never know what people are dealing with.”

“Wow, you have no idea how much I needed to read this. So much time spent doom scrolling on Twitter and feeling so sad and helpless about life,” one user shared in response to Cate’s story. “I forget the joy I have felt from helping those in need. This is what I need to be putting my energy into, spreading love and kindness.”

In doing his best to read all of the responses he's gotten, Cate said that a large takeaway for him is the reminder that not every good deed needs to be broadcast.

“I think that what you saw in the replies that were so meaningful is that it's people talking about the examples that were set when people when their parents or somebody they knew did something, and they saw it, and it wasn’t for a parade,” Cate explained. “It wasn’t for a headline. It was just something that had happened. And they always remembered it.”