Air Force mom's heartfelt message on stranger's McDonald's receipt goes viral

In honor of her son who was far from home, Caryn Hill bought the meal of a McDonald's customer behind her and left behind a not on their receipt. (Credit: Facebook/Heidi Goforth)

A mother’s unconditional love is going viral online after she bought a stranger’s meal in honor of her son in the Air Force, and left a heartfelt note on the stranger’s McDonald’s receipt.

After Caryn Hill finished another 13-hour midnight shift at a local Hermitage, Tenn. hospital on July 28, she decided to swing by her local McDonald’s drive-thru.

“When you work the midnight shift, you have a lot of time to think about things and I spent a lot of time thinking about my son,” Hill tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

Hill’s son Ronnie is going on his seventh week of Air Force basic training with only 17 days left to go. With the reunion with her son looming, Hill was inspired to buy someone else’s meal in honor of her son.

Ronnie Hill "RJ" in his High School JROTC uniform with his Dad, Ronnie Hill, at a funeral for a Veteran.(Credit: Caryn Hill)

“I was really missing him that morning so I wanted to buy their meal and let them know that I kinda wished I could buy a meal for my son. Since I couldn’t buy him a meal, I was going to do it for someone else.”

As she was paying for her meal, Hill, 48, told the McDonald’s employee that she would foot the bill for the customer behind her and asked to write a note on their receipt. Hill says she does these random acts of kindness regularly to teach her children the value of kindness and paying it forward.

“I went home and didn’t think anything about it.”

Heidi Goforth, the lucky customer behind Hill, was in the McDonald’s drive-thru in Nashville to pick up food for her son that morning. When she approached the window to pay, Goforth was surprised to discover that the customer in front of her had already paid for her meal. But, what touched Goforth wasn’t the stranger’s act of kindness; it was the heartfelt message the mother had left behind.

“My son is in the air force,” reads the heartfelt message on Goforth’s McDonald’s receipt. “I can’t buy him breakfast so I bought yours.”

Goforth was inspired to share the stranger’s good deed online and praised the mother’s devotion to her son.

“I was buying breakfast for my son at McDonald's and the sweet lady in front of me, in the drive-thru, paid for my meal,” Goforth wrote on the Hermitage, Tenn. Facebook page with a picture of the receipt. “I pray that you see your son soon! He's lucky to have a mom that loves him so much! God bless you and him! Tell him thank you for his service.”

Goforth’s post quickly went viral online, with local community members praising the unidentified mother for her devotion to her son.

“Air Force Mom, if you see this, thank you for raising such a fine young man who is serving his country, and thank you for your generosity to another person,” commented one Facebook user.

The viral post soon reached the “Air Force Mom” herself — her son’s girlfriend had sent a screenshot of the Facebook post to Hill. Hill immediately replied to Goforth’s post that she says brought tears to her eyes.

“I briefly saw it when I woke but had to run to work,” she commented on Facebook, adding that it was “extra special” that Goforth happened to be getting a meal for her son.

“My husband texted me the news clip while I was working [the] night shift. I cried like a baby when I read the comments from you and others! Not an hour goes by that we don't think of our son. He is going to laugh when he reads this.”

Although Hill was the one who extended her kindness to a stranger, she says the entire incident has been a blessing on her own life.

“It was really touching. Here I thought I was doing something to brighten someone else’s day and it came back ten fold to see that so many people were thinking about my son and were appreciative of other military people out there,” Hill tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

As it turns out, Goforth’s and Hill’s children have attended the same local schools for years. Hill hopes that their story will inspire people to pay it forward every once in a while — because the reward you will receive in return is “priceless.”

“The smallest thing you can do, a smile, buying a cup of coffee or meal can really touch someone’s life.”

Heidi Goforth did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s request for comment.

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