Big Lots!

Back on Trail after Front Royal

A few weeks ago I was thinking a lot about chain reactions and how we might be able to help each other in this stressful time. I’ve been doing small things like leaving double tips for hotel housekeeping, buying extra laundry supplies and leaving them in the laundromat and thanking all of the restaurants that we go to for being open. I think it might be working.

I had a beautiful experience in Fort Royal that I think proves my point. I went to McDonalds this morning before heading back to the Trail for the Big Breakfast. It’s the perfect way to start your hike. Just about everything that McDonalds sells for breakfast in one wonderful package. The dining room was closed so I walked through the drive through like we’ve been doing for the last few weeks. When I got up to the window they wouldn’t serve me. I asked to speak with the manager but she wouldn’t budge. I don’t know why this one isn’t serving people without cars but I walked away empty handed.

As I was walking back to the hotel a car pulled into the parking lot and a woman held out a big McDonalds bag with my breakfast in it. I couldn’t believe it and thanked her as tears welled up in my eyes. She refused to take any money and just wished me a good day. As she pulled out, I caught a glimpse of her name tag. My angel was named Theresa and she worked at Big Lots.

Cute little guy with a bright green suit on

When I got back to the hotel, I emailed the following letter to the CEO of Big Lots and her manager here in Fort Royal:

Mr. Bruce Thorn – Chief Executive Officer

Ms. Greta Dip – Store Manager

I am reaching out to you to share a wonderful experience that I had this morning with one of your employees from Front Royal, Virginia named Theresa. Unfortunately, I don’t have her last name but I hope this gets back to her all the same.
I am hiking the Appalachian Trail this year and spent the night here in Front Royal. I went to McDonalds this morning for breakfast and walked through the drive through to place my order. They would not serve me and would not make any other accommodations. As a hiker I don’t have a vehicle with me and didn’t have any other way to get breakfast before heading back to the trail.
As I was walking back down to the street toward my hotel, a car pulled up next to me and it was Theresa. She was behind me in the drive through and noticed what happened, bought my breakfast and tracked me down. I went to offer her payment and she refused. I just caught a glimpse of her name tag before she drove off.
As you are so aware, we are living is stressful times. I believe that our best way out of this is to be kind to each other whenever possible. These small but meaningful acts will spread faster than the virus. We will pass along a pattern of helping each other instead of dwelling in fear. Theresa’s thoughtful gesture brought me to tears because it gave me some hope in these dark days.
Theresa deserves some heartfelt recognition for her kindness. You just can’t train this type of attitude and she should be recognized for that by her employer. You have a great person on your team.
Drew Marlar

I got back on Trail thinking that was all that would come of it but I checked my email before I lost service and I had the following response from the CEO, Bruce Thorn:

Dear Drew –

I just got off the phone with Theresa. I read your note for her and she was overwhelmed (I was too!). I told her that the world needs more Theresas and that she makes all of us at Big Lots so proud. In honor of her kind act, we will throw a store party for her and the team. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me. It makes my heart swell knowing I work for a company with kind people like Theresa. By the way, she told me to tell you that it was her pleasure to treat you to breakfast! Happy trails!


Now that was awesome! There are so many great things about this story but I just love the fact that Bruce responded right away and that her kindness will be acknowledged. Maybe this will inspire someone else that she works with. It surely inspired me. Happy trails indeed!

13 thoughts on “Big Lots!

  1. That is so great Drew. Enjoyed so much reading about Theresa’s very kind act as well as CEO Bruce’s quick response from your experience. Very uplifting.


  2. Having spent a short period of time on the Trail I was very appreciative of kind acts by trail angels but to see it when in town is very special. It is also very special to see angel acts by those dedicated to the travel of the Trail as you do with your generosity, compassion and thoughtfulness.


  3. You witnessed kindness begets kindness. You have consistently left trails of kind, good and appreciation all along the AT and Theresa was there for you. So appropriate that you took the time and made the effort to reach out to her CEO. I am very proud of you. Have a great hike today. Loved the wild flowers and the path along the trail. Knowing there are still trail angels waiting to help gives me reassurance that good is still alive. Big hugs and much love.


  4. This is one of the most inspiring stories I have ever read! What an amazing act of kindness from all who were involved in this. I’m so happy we are getting to share all of these wonderful stories and the people in this world who love to help others. The AT is giving you gifts of human kindness all along the way. Life changing!


  5. OK, this is an awesome story. The world needs many Teresas. I am so glad you contacted her boss and that he got word back to her. Thank you for doing this.


  6. When are you writing an email to the CEO of MacDonalds? That policy is ridiculous when the dining area is closed.


  7. Wonderful story. Great for Theresa, for Bruce, for you and for all of us. Kindness is the key. Hugs!!


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