Teachers have the ability to inspire greatness in their students. Such is the case with Rich Specht, a teacher, whose reach and foundation ReesSpecht Life have been going viral after an anonymous rising Broadway star, known only as Mike, left a 6800% tip for a New York City waitress struggling to pay her rent. Mike was inspired to pay-it-forward by his eighth grade science teacher, Mr. Rich Specht.
“This young man [Mike] used to come up to my room to talk with me and I remember many of our conversations that we had over the course of that year... to think that someone I had a decade ago would… remember his 8th grade science teacher in such a way blows me away,” Mr. Specht said.
Mike sat in Mr. Specht’s class years ago, but had been thinking about Mr. Specht’s life lessons for quite some time. Mike described Mr. Specht as “an incredible human being.” But like all of us, Mr. Specht was not immune to life’s tragedies.
In 2012 while preparing for Superstorm Sandy, Mr. Specht’s 22-month-old son named Rees tragically drowned in their backyard pond. The local community rallied around the Specht’s to help. A local landscaper filled in the pond for free others helped out with their son’s funeral. Mr. Specht wanted to pay them back for their support and kindness.
"We wanted to pay them back, and no one would take anything in return. We thought, ‘if no one will let us pay it back, we’ll pay it forward,’” Specht told ABC News.
After the funeral, the Specht’s set up the ReesSpecht Life Foundation, in honor of their son Richard Edwin-Ehmer Specht’s (nicknamed Rees). The campaign is simple: pay-it-forward.
Mike said to ABC News, “It doesn’t surprise me that he would start a foundation out of something so horrible that would just continue to keep good around and to keep wonderful things going… It was heart-wrenching for me to see it happen. I had been trying to pay it forward and this was just a big opportunity for me to be able to honor someone that’s so wonderful.”
Mike had been going to the restaurant for over a year and knew the waitress well and that she was served an eviction notice last month. Mike always had Mr. Specht’s foundation in the back of his mind and knew of the waitress’s problem. He felt like it was the appropriate time to pay it forward. Mike settled on a $3000 tip because he knew that rent prices were high in New York City.
He left the tip with this note and instructions:
“Thank you for your kindness and humility. My teacher in middle school had such a difficult experience a few years ago which has sparked me to do this. My only requirements are:
1.) Go to ReesSpechtLife.com and learn!
2.) Don’t let “Pay it forward” end with you.
3.) Since it’s about the idea and not about you, or me, if you decide to share this, don’t use either of our names!
Thank you for being around for all of my shows on and off Broadway. I hope that someday someone gives as much love and happiness into the world as you do.”
In the heart of a New York City restaurant, Rich Specht’s invaluable lessons of community, compassion, and respect turned into action. It is through these types of actions we realize the ability of teachers to impact great change, to build great citizens, and improve the world. This is a moment we realize that these types of lessons are life’s greatest. As Mr. Specht wrote, “I am a firm believer that what makes a good teacher is the inherently intangible aspects… That is all any of us really ever wants, isn’t it? – To know that we made a difference in this world.”
To learn more about the ReesSpecht Life Foundation please visit their website.