Friday, March 29, 2013

The Lesson of the Broken Cheeseburger

This is a story that has gone, as we say today, "viral".  It's one of those feel-good stories that has a deeper meaning.

The story involves a 25 year old woman who took her seven year old sister out to lunch at a Chili's restaurant in Midvale, Utah.  The seven year old girl, who has autism, ordered a cheeseburger.

This particular restaurant automatically cuts a cheeseburger in half for its younger clientele.  But the little girl refused to eat the cheeseburger.  She stared at it.  Her big sister explains her little sister is obsessed with hamburgers, so this was not ordinary behavior.

The little girl said it was "broken".  The older sister asked the waitress if she could bring an uncut cheeseburger, explaining about her sister's autism.  This is where there story gets interesting.

I have a brother in law with autism who loves to eat out.  Because of my interactions with him, I am well aware that people with autism do not like change.  Cheeseburgers aren't usually cut in half.  A cut in half cheeseburger isn't what the seven year old girl expected.  And I also know if that waitress had just grabbed the cheeseburger and removed it, it may well have triggered a temper tantrum. 

No, what the waitress did next is the amazing part. No, it wasn't that she brought another, uncut cheeseburger at no charge..  No, it isn't even that the waitress told the manager, who came out and apologized, too.

The thing that made this story different is that the waitress and the manager spoke directly to the little girl. 

The waitress  said she was sorry, would get her another burger and gave her some french fries to munch on while the girl waited.  In other words, this waitress treated this little girl like the human being she is.  The manager reenforced this.

The girl was so happy that she kissed her new cheeseburger.  Big sister took a picture, posted it on Facebook and the power of social media took over.

People are afraid to talk to people with disabilities.  Some of it comes from a feeling of not quite knowing what to do, of not wanting to offend  But many times it, I think, comes from an expectation that a person with disabilities isn't a whole person.

In interacting with my brother in law, I confess I've sometimes been guilty of that, too.  I'm sorry to say that is how society was when I grew up back in the 50's and 60's.  But that isn't an excuse.

These customers were lucky to get a waitress who, herself, had a family member with autism (plus a degree in psychology), recognized how the situation might play out and knew just what to do.

Good for this waitress and manager!  People who work in service fields are so unrecognized - being a waitress is a tough job.  Good for waitress Lauren Wells!  She deserves the thanks of everyone with a family member who has autism.


  1. I saw that story on Facebook. And I think you are right that we can forget that people with disabilities are whole people and deserve to be treated as such. Yes, the waitress and manager should be recognized, and I'm so glad the story went viral so that we can all learn a lesson from them all!

  2. What a great story to share. I had tears in my eyes and goosebumps all at the same time. Everyone deserves to be treated with decency and respect. This is the type of story that should go viral.

  3. One of the most charming, touching and uplifting blogs I've read in a good while. Thank you so much for posting it....

  4. Sweet! We can all use a reminder to be kind to EVERY one.

  5. This is a wonderful story to share. I applaud that waitress who, though she undoubtedly was having a busy day at work, was able to see through the situation for what it was, and to treat the little girl with dignity and respect. I hope she got a good tip!

  6. I'm so glad that they had a great waitress and manager who understood the girl's needs. There needs to be more people out there like that.

  7. I just love this story, It's wonderful. I am going to share it on my FB


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