A stranger's heartwarming act of kindness for a struggling family has shown that a small gesture can go a long way.
According to Kristina Rankins, her family of five lives "paycheck by paycheck" and usually can't afford to go out to eat, WQAD reported on Oct. 8.
On most nights, Rankins makes dinner at home for the Port Byron, Illinois, family.
However, the family recently decided to take a rare night out for dinner at the New Mandarin Chinese Restaurant in Moline, Illinois, after a very rough week in which Rankins' three children all came down with viral infections.
It was a long week filled with trips to the doctor's office, and the family just wanted to take their mind off things, according to WQAD.
To make matters worse, a family member had passed away over the Oct. 2-4 weekend.
Rankins said that the restaurant was empty except for her family and one other man. When the man finished, he signed his check and left. Shortly afterwards, Rankins asked for her own check, but the server informed her that the family's meal had already been paid for by the man who just left.
"That small act of kindness meant so much to a family," Rankins told WQAD.
She said she went outside to see if the man was still there, but he was nowhere to be found.
The man's act of kindness lifted the family's spirits after a bad week.
"To know that you don't know that person's story and you don't know what they've been through and that simple act of kindness may be exactly what they needed at their point of time in their life," Rankins said.
While heartwarming, this random act of kindness is hardly the first of its kind. On Oct. 8, WATD reported that a similar gesture at a Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru in Pembroke, Massachusetts, inspired a chain of paying it forward for the customers in line at the drive-thru.