The Server Who Looked Out For Others: How One Small Act Of Kindness Changed Her Life Forever

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By: | Published: Dec 28, 2022

Step inside the doors of Ruby Tuesday, and you’ll find more than a delicious lunch. You’ll find Sarah Hoidahl, a single mother working hard to make ends meet. 

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Known for her compassion and generosity, Sarah’s kindness came to the fore when two women from the National Guard came in one day and she went beyond expectations in an incredible act of selflessness!

Sarah's Dream Day! 

Sarah Hoidahl, a 21-year old single mom working as a waitress at the local Ruby Tuesday on Loudon Road in Concord, clocked in and got ready to take on the day. Little did she know that this would be no ordinary shift! 

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As Sarah went about her duties taking orders and delivering food, two female National Guard officers sat down at one of her tables. This moment would prove to be life changing for Sarah – an exciting opportunity was about to present itself! What happened next?

How One Woman Made Lunch Special for a Pair of Servicewomen

The ladies from the New Hampshire National Guard were in need of a pick-me-up when they sat down for lunch. 

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Source: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

As the two servicewomen spoke it became painfully apparent that their struggle with the government shutdown had left them in dire financial straits. All they could think about was ordering something cheap from the menu. 

Financial Woes

President Obama had to act fast. With the government shutdown looming, he signed the Pay Our Military Act – an admirable decision aimed at ensuring our service members would still get paid. Despite this move, not everyone was fortunate enough to benefit from it. 

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As Sarah overheard the women talking about their financial predicament, her heart sank. She could relate all too well; a single mother working hard at her job as a waitress just to make ends meet, she knew the hardships of life all too well. Her struggles had become an everyday reality and she could empathize.

Sarah's Simple Gesture - A Life Changing Moment

As Sarah went about her work at the restaurant, she just couldn’t get these women out of her mind. Serving their country with the New Hampshire National Guard, yet not getting paid for it? It seemed preposterous! She felt that something had to be done. 

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So when they finished their meal, instead of bringing them the bill, Sarah returned to the table with a note. Little did she know that this small act would bring about huge changes in her life!

Sarah's Generosity

The women ordered modestly priced meals and their bill came to around $30 – more than Sarah’s earnings that shift. But Sarah didn’t let that faze her and paid for both their meals.

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Though Sarah walked home empty-handed, her heart was full of pride knowing that she had made someone else happy. No matter how little you have, a little kindness can go a long way. 

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Generous Surprise for Disheartened Service Women 

Walking into Ruby Tuesday, the two servicewomen felt downtrodden. They had lost their paycheck and had no idea how they could afford even a basic meal now. 

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But their despair was quickly replaced with joy due to Sarah’s generosity. They were elated and thanked her profusely for her kindness.

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Sarah, A Real-Life Angel of Kindness!

The two women were beyond grateful for Sarah’s act of kindness and had to share the news on Facebook. And it didn’t take long for the National Guard and Ruby Tuesday to jump in too! They shared a picture of the note and Sarah, along with an incredibly heartfelt comment from one Facebook user – “On behalf of an ex-military (USMC), thank you so much for your thoughtfulness and kindness!” 

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Sarah’s act earned her much recognition on social media. She is truly an angel sent from above!

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Sarah Sparks National Conversation About Helping Military Families in Need 

“My heart goes out to military families struggling to make ends meet,” Sarah told WUMR recently. “My bills don’t stop if my income does, and I know it’s the same for these brave folks who protect us every day. We need to do our part to look after them.” 

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Her comment quickly spread on Facebook, with one user writing, “If the government won’t help our troops, then we must step up and act. Kudos to Sarah!” This story has started a much-needed conversation on the importance of taking care of those who serve us so loyally. Let’s all do what we can – no matter how small – to show our gratitude for their service!

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Singing Sarah’s Praises

When the National Guard posted Sarah’s act of kindness on their Facebook page, Ruby Tuesday followed suit and posted their appreciation. 

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Giving this “unsung hero” a shoutout on social media, they praised Sarah for setting an “example of generosity and care”, and expressed their pride at having her in the Ruby Tuesday family.

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Generous Act Leads to National Recognition

Who said American kindness was a thing of the past? Sarah’s story sparked a wave of positivity around the country and warmed people’s hearts. It all started when her story was shared on Facebook, quickly racking up thousands of likes and shares. 

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It wasn’t long before it made national headlines – people couldn’t get enough of the single mother who selflessly paid for the two struggling service-women. It didn’t stop there, soon enough celebrities were talking about Sarah’s kind gesture! 

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Ellen Shows Single Mom Love!

When news of Sarah’s story reached Ellen DeGeneres, the talk show host knew that she had to have the single mom on her show to tell her inspiring story. In front of a captivated studio audience, Ellen welcomed Sarah with open arms, saying, “you’re a good person”.

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Without missing a beat, The Ellen Show had Sarah recount the extraordinary event that took place at the restaurant. With Heartfelt sincerity Sarah shared, “it just got me thinking, ‘geez, that’s really difficult. I’m a waitress and a single mother. I know how it is.” Now that’s what we call heartwarming!

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Ellen’s Response

Ellen couldn’t believe it when Sarah told her that after she had taken care of the bill for the two women, she was left with just $8 in her pocket – barely enough for gas to get her home. 

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So on live television Ellen pulled out the cash that Sarah had put out and handed it to Sarah.But there was more…

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Kindness Rewarded - Ellen Gives Sarah a New TV! 

When Ellen asked Sarah if she watched her show, and Sarah explained that she couldn’t as her television was broken, Ellen gifted Sarah a brand new, 50-inch, flat-screen TV.

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The young waitress couldn’t believe what just happened – all because of her act of kindness. But like kindness itself, Ellen did not stop there…

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Momma, I Got You Covered!

Calling out to Andy to, “bring momma her checkbook”, Andy brought on to the set a giant chequebook! 

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To Sarah’s amazement and joy, Ellen slowly wrote out a check for the humongous amount of ten thousand dollars! Tears of joy streamed down Sarah’s face as her emotion spilled over. 

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A Life-Changing Moment: Ellen Gives Sarah the Support She Deserves

Ellen’s signature was like music to Sarah’s ears, as she embraced her with tears of joy. After receiving the enormous check, Sarah could hardly believe her luck. This generous sum would be life-altering for her as a single mother struggling to support her 18-month old son while working at a restaurant. 

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And the crowd was just as moved as Sarah. It seemed everyone was rejoicing with Sarah in her good fortune. 

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Sarah Didn't Know What Her Honesty Would Lead To 

In a later episode Ellen explained to her audience what Sarah had done, and showed a clip of Sarah talking to someone she believed was local news – when it turns out it was actually one of the producers for The Ellen Show! 

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To ensure that Sarah gave honest answers, they used the same cameras as for the show. Little did Sarah know that her honesty was about to result in her appearance on The Ellen Show! 

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The Surprising Set-up: Ellen Pranks Sarah with an Interview! 

You won’t believe what happened part way through Sarah’s interview. Sarah was told she had a call, and on the line was none other than Ellen DeGeneres on live television telling Sarah she was actually on her show! 

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Much to Sarah’s astonishment, what started out as just another interview quickly grew into something extraordinary – we can only imagine the look on her face when she heard those four words: “Hi Sarah, I’m Ellen!”

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"Surprise!" Ellen Leaves Sarah Speechless

Sarah was speechless when Ellen revealed that the man she had been talking to wasn’t a reporter, but someone from the show. She admitted that she had been checking up on Sarah and wanted to know how she was doing. 

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Sarah shared with Ellen the immense appreciation she had received from people around the globe. To top it off, Ruby Tuesday gave her an incredible bonus! Making matters even better, Ellen told everyone present that part of the $10,000 Sarah received from her would be used to buy a car for her and her mother. Audience members were spellbound.

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A Mother and Daughter Share the Road in Style! 

When Ellen asked Sarah about her car, she explained, “it has four wheels that get me from point A to point B”. Though sharing the vehicle with her mother can be a bit of a challenge, they make it work with some helpful friends by their side. 

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Ellen then pulled out an enormous purse on camera, only to remember that what she wanted was with someone else. 

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A Dream Come True For Sarah! 

A crew member came on to the set and handed Sarah a key to… a shiny brand new red Hyundai San Jose Sport!

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With cameras in tow, Sarah could barely believe what she saw and her emotions bubbled over when she opened the door to the car and stepped inside. Words simply couldn’t express how she felt. It was truly a dream come true for her.

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Sarah Takes Delivery of Her Car 

Sarah’s excitement had to give way to patience before finally receiving her car, while the paperwork processing the car was completed. After the anxious wait, Sarah couldn’t contain her joy when she received her dream car. 

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“It has been a long wait for this car,” she said with a bright smile. “But I really can’t complain…it’s going to be nice.” 

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Keeping it Real

Notwithstanding all the attention that came her way, Sarah has remained humble and modest throughout. Sarah still cherishes her time at Ruby Tuesday’s, although the Concord location closed its doors in 2019. 

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After eight years working there, she says she felt like part of the Ruby’s family. When talking to a local news outlet about it all, Sarah said, “I just want to wish my Ruby family the best, and thank them for these last eight years.” 

We hope others learn from the example set by this extraordinary woman.

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