This man risked his job to speak up for a child.

Heroes come in all forms. They can be first responders, firefighters, fictional characters, or, as was the case at one restaurant in Houston, servers just standing up for what is right.

A hero is what many people are calling server Michael Garcia this year after he put his job on the line to defend a little boy with autism from some particularly rude customers.

A Family Dinner Out

server at a restaurant

Earlier in 2023, Kim Castillo was dining at Laurenzo’s Prime Rib in Houston with her five-year-old son, Milo. Milo has Down syndrome, and his speech is a little delayed, but at the time, he was showing off some new words and talking about his birthday, which had just passed, reported HLN.

That’s when a family, who was sitting nearby, asked if they could move tables to be farther away from Castillo and her son. The servers were confused, but they obliged until they heard a man in the group make a disparaging remark.

“He said, ‘Special needs children need to be special somewhere else,’” Garcia recounted to the outlet. “That’s like saying, ‘You can’t come in because you’re a different skin color.’”

Garcia told the family he would not be serving them. The man responded that he would leave the restaurant, but Garcia didn’t care. “I probably shouldn’t have said it, but I was like, ‘Okay, good,’” he added.

The Makings of a Hero

The Castillo family didn’t know about the comment at first, but they later learned what had transpired and were grateful that Garcia had stuck up for them. It meant a lot to them, as regular customers, particularly when they learned that the booted family members were also restaurant regulars.

“I wouldn’t have expected anyone to do that and risk their job,” Castillo told the outlet.

“I was impressed that somebody would step out of their own comfort level and put their job on the line as well as to stand up for somebody else,” she added to NBC News, as per Today.

“I know Michael did it from his heart and from reacting to the situation. I don’t think he stopped and thought about what he was doing.”

Castillo also speculated in a since-deleted post that she didn’t even realize Milo was being disruptive. She had been taking him out to eat since he was little, and felt that he was well behaved.

“Was he loud?” she wrote, as per Today. “Maybe a little in the moment, but honestly, the adults at our table were three times louder than he was…. If he had been obnoxious, which like any other five-year-old he can be, I wouldn’t have thought twice about the family asking to move.”

Customers Respond in Kind

After Castillo wrote about her experience online, it was picked up by several news outlets and local social media pages. Soon, people began frequenting the restaurant and seeking out Garcia in hopes of being served by the local hero.

“The business has been huge,” Candace Roberts, a fellow server, told the NBC affiliate. “People are coming in to shake his hand and eat at our restaurant and loving it.”

Castillo, meanwhile, hopes that this story inspires others to lead with tolerance and kindness and to stop judging others by what they see on the outside.

“It’s just impressive to see the outpouring of love and support,” she added. “Maybe next time they’ll think twice before they utter those words or say something derogatory about somebody else.”

Standing Up When It Matters

There are all kinds of great, positive messages to receive from this story, but perhaps the most powerful of all is the importance of speaking up for others, particularly for those who can’t always speak up for themselves.

Garcia could have easily ignored that rude man and pretended as though his prejudice didn’t exist. But he addressed it head-on and showed that he wouldn’t stand for it, potentially making that man think twice the next time he feels the need to speak out against someone with special needs.

Not all of us are born with the same advantages in life, but that doesn’t make one person better than another. It takes genuine bravery to speak up on someone else’s behalf, and sometimes it can be a risk. But as Garcia knows, it’s a risk worth taking.