Kevon Smith Sr. has a powerful message about parenting.

Most parents are just trying to do their best. They go about their days caring for their kids, trying to provide what they can, and imparting life lessons that will hopefully one day resonate. It can be a hard gig, particularly when it’s met with judgment. So when someone unexpectedly validates what you’re doing, it can be a huge act of kindness.

That’s exactly what one man in Willoughby, Ohio, experienced one day when he went for some breakfast with his son at a Cracker Barrel.

A Routine Meal

dad kissing his little son

Kevon Smith Sr. had brought his three-month-old son, Kevon Jr., out for breakfast one day, and was going about his business. He was playing with his son and tending to him while eating, and just doing his regular old thing.

But then he noticed a couple staring at him. He tried to go on with his meal, but he was confused.

“They kept smiling at me, and I was looking at my son like, ‘What is going on?’” he wrote in a since-deleted social media post, as per PopSugar.

As it turns out, the strangers were just happy to see a dad spending time with his son, and they felt inspired while watching the relationship. Smith had no way of knowing that though, until he paid for his meal and left.

A Surprise Note

When Smith arrived at his car, he noticed a note from the couple tucked under his windshield wipers. In it, they wrote about what a great father he is, and they left some cash for his meal.

“Today your meal is on my wife and me,” it read. “Enjoy that baby as long as God intends. Keep doing what you’re doing. The Masons.”

For Smith, it was a happy moment of reassurance and feeling seen. He was touched by the generosity and noted that he didn’t have a father figure growing up, so spending this time with his son is super important to him.

“There’s a lot of guys I know that aren’t taking care of their kids,” he continued. “To show that not all of us are out here being gang bangers. Some of us are out here being fathers.”

He added that he’ll share this story with his son when he’s older and that he wants to teach him kindness and about the power of giving back.

“I’m definitely going to make sure I’m paying it forward,” Smith wrapped. “I get blessed — I want to bless someone else.”

Paying It Forward

Parents aren’t the only ones who could use a little paying it forward every once in a while — the concept applies to everyone. Thankfully, it’s also not hard to do. When something good or unexpected happens to us, think of ways to make something good or unexpected happen for someone else in your life.

It could be a stranger you encounter during your regular routine, something remarkable you happen to see that inspires you, or an act towards a friend or family member who could use some light right now.

We can all benefit from more kindness in our lives, but as this story reminds us, kindness starts with us.