Jim Matheny, WBIR
(WBIR - Knoxville) A Knoxville waitress says she is still in shock after a seemingly normal customer tipped her $1,075 on Wednesday night. Her coworkers say the generous gratuity proves good things happen to good people.
Khadijah Muhammad showed up at her job at Cheddar's on Clinton Highway on Wednesday afternoon and provided her typical solid service with a smile. Service is something Muhammad has devoted her life to both on and off the job. When she is not working as a server, she's making homemade pies, muffins, soup, and delivering it to the homeless on her own.
"I'll stop and say, 'Hey, do you want some soup? You want a cup of hot soup? People are so thankful. I like pleasing people," said Muhammad.
Her routine of service came to a standstill earlier this month when Muhammad's mother in Ohio suffered a heart attack.
"All I wanted was to see my mother one more time. With God's help, I managed to make it up there driving in the middle of the big snow storm that hit earlier this month. I was able to see her and she pulled through, thankfully. When I got back home in Knoxville, it started to sink in how much work I missed and that I was not going to be able to pay all of my bills. I've been trying to pick up any extra shifts that I can."
When Muhammad left for work Wednesday, she did so with a doorknob notice that KUB left to notify her of a past due bill that would shut off the electricity if unpaid by the next day, Thursday, January 23.
"It said, 'This is your second and final notice of past due bill to prevent service disconnection.' I was thinking I'm really going to need a miracle to pay my bills this month."
Muhammad's shift began with relatively slow traffic in the restaurant, which translates to fewer opportunities for tips. She served a few tables, including one table consisting of a husband, wife, and their small child.
"They really did not stand out. They were just nice folks. I remember talking to them and having a friendly conversation like you would with a neighbor. The father ordered a country steak. The mother and son split a fish taco. They split it. They were really humble people," said Muhammad.
The table's total bill after tax was $29.30. When Muhammad returned to the table to collect the check, the receipt was turned upside down.
"Normally as a server, when a receipt is turned upside down it means you did not get a good tip or any tip. Or people will leave a nasty note about how you messed something up with their service. I remember thinking, 'I wonder what I did wrong.' Then I picked it up and I just was in shock."
The signed receipt turned Muhammad's life upside down.
"I just remember seeing a comma after the one and knew it wasn't $10. And I was like, 'Oh, my God!' And I just lost my balance and I was like, 'Does this say a thousand dollars?' I could not believe it."
To be exact, the tip was for $1,075 and included a note Muhammad considers priceless.
"It says, 'Jesus Blessed us and we were led to give it to you. God Bless!' What I'm thinking now is I believe it."
Khadijah said she has no clue who the generous tippers are or where they are from. What she is certain of is what she would like to tell them.
"I just want to thank them. Thank them so much, because I'm humbled. I'm grateful. I do believe that God led you to me at this time in my life," said a tearful Muhammad.
Muhammad said one thing she is curious about is how the customers arrived at the amount to tip. She wonders if that figure was simply what the customers had available to them or if the number 1,075 holds some other significance.
"It is not really a round number. I was up all last night just thanking God and crying about this, so thankful. I couldn't sleep and even tried to see if there was some mention of the number 1,075 in scripture."
Whether the number holds any meaning to the customers or not, the figure is significant to Muhammad because it will allow her to make ends meet during what has been one of the most difficult times in her life.
"I hope and pray that someday I'm able to do this for somebody. And at the first opportunity I will do it."