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ADA member’s generous tip goes viral

January 31, 2017

By Jennifer Garvin

Photo of Dr. White in a crowd outside the White House
Dr. White 
— ADA member Dr. Jason White learned how it feels to be a viral sensation last week when news broke that he left a $450 tip for a waitress he met during his trip to Washington for the inauguration.

Jan. 23 was the last day of Dr. White’s visit to Washington and the Lubbock, Texas, dentist was in charge of picking the place for lunch with friends. He wanted something local, known for its soups and sandwiches. The owner of the Vacation Rental By Owner property he’d rented for the weekend suggested Busboys and Poets. After a circuitous trip through Northwest D.C. the taxi finally dropped them off at 14th and V. As soon as he walked in with his two fellow Texans, he sensed they were out of place.

“The minute we walked in, I’m looking around and I’m like, ‘Oh wow,’ this is a really cool place.’ Then I’m feeling lots of other people looking at us,” Dr. White recalled during a phone conversation Jan. 27.

The restaurant, which is known for its social justice vibe, also doubles as a bar, bookstore, events space and cultural hub, and bills itself as a place “where art, politics and culture intentionally collide.” The day before the inauguration the restaurant hosted the 2017 Inaugural Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture.

As he observed some of the patrons wearing pink hats in honor of the Women’s March and buttons that said “Black Lives Matter,” Dr. White told one of the friends he was with to take off the red “Make America Great Again” hat he was wearing.

A young black woman — server Rosalynd Harris — came over to take their order.

“I could tell she was uncomfortable but she put a big smile on her face. I told her, ‘we’re from West Texas and we’ve never been in a place like this,’ ” he said. “We just want a great lunch for our last meal in D.C.”

They asked Ms. Harris what her favorite thing on the menu was. She suggested the avocado panini so Dr. White ordered just that, along with a side of tomato soup.

When she brought the check, he paid and signed the receipt. He found himself overcome with the weekend. The inspiration of the inauguration, a trip to Arlington Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the beauty of living in a country where people are free to protest and express their beliefs — even when not everyone agrees with everyone else — poured out of him. He wanted Ms. Harris to know that he wasn’t the person she may have first perceived him to be, just as she wasn’t the person he probably perceived her to be.

So he wrote her a note on the charge receipt.

“We may come from different cultures and may disagree on certain issues, but if everyone would share their smile and kindness like your beautiful smile, our country will come together as one people,” it read. “Not race. Not gender. Just American. God Bless!”

He left a $450 tip—a 625 percent tip on the $70 bill—in honor of the 45th president, Donald Trump.

The story went viral on social media after the restaurant posted a photo of the receipt — with Dr. White’s personal information blocked out — on its Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“You automatically assume if someone supports Trump that they have ideas about you,” Ms. Harris told the Washington Post, “but [the customer was] more embracing than even some of my more liberal friends, and there was a real authenticity in our exchange.”

“A lot of our customers have been warmed by the story,” said Laela Shallal, a vice president of the Busboys and Poets chain who also manages its social media. “We do have a progressive lean, but we’re welcoming to everyone,” she said. “This is an act of kindness. It’s the biggest act we’ve seen given during this time our country is in. It took some discomfort for them to come in here, and they made a wonderful gesture.

“Change happens one person at a time. One positive encounter at a time.”

It didn’t take long before media outlets tracked down the 37-year-old dentist from Lubbock.

A devout Christian, Dr. White said he’s heard from people all over the world — Brazil, Argentina, Great Britain — who were inspired by the story. His office has also been flooded with thousands of emails since the story broke.

“It’s been overwhelming but I’m very humbled by it,” said Dr. White of his newfound fame. “I’m a Facebook junkie but never have I been a part of anything like this,” said Dr. White. “If all Americans would show each respect — our families, friends and business acquaintances — there would be a ripple effect.”