It had been a rough month for Shelly Harrison and her husband. Even though they had been struggling financially, they were determined to celebrate their anniversary. But just as things were looking up, she found a menacing note on the windshield of her car. Was it a ticket? A threatening note? Instead, what she found was something that had her scrambling for her phone.
Shelly lives in Sherwood Park, Canada, with her husband. She had recently fallen on hard times, and things kept getting worse for her. Back in 2015, right after her father had passed away, she found a parking ticket on her car after the funeral. Then when trying to sort it out at the courthouse, she found a cop giving her another parking ticket. And just when she thought things couldn't get any worse, she returned home one day to a horrifying sight.
Shelly's landlord evicted her, and when she came out of court to settle that dispute, she again found a cop writing out another parking ticket. But despite struggling to pay off her father's funeral, all the parking tickets and getting money for a new apartment, Shelly still managed to put on a brave face in front of her hubby. So when her husband came home and said "We need to talk," she thought she could keep it together - until she heard what he had to say.
The day of their anniversary, Shelly's husband had been informed that he was going to be laid off. But instead of letting this get them down, this inspiring couple kept their heads high and decided to stretch each dollar they had to make this date one that would last a lifetime. Little did they know, this was the night that would turn their whole lives upside-down.
Shelly and her husband had decided to celebrate their love with a nice dinner at the Original Joe’s restaurant in Sherwood Park, Alberta. After dinner, they knocked back a few drinks and enjoyed themselves on their date night out - but perhaps a bit too much. When it was time to leave, the pair headed to their car, parked outside. But Shelly hesitated - she had a much better idea.
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Shelly was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Shelly knew it didn’t take much alcohol to make a difference behind the wheel. "You don’t have to be drunk to be impaired," she told Today. "I wasn’t some crazy drunk lady, but I definitely had no business driving.” Yet considering her history with parking tickets, the last thing she wanted was to leave her car. But what choice did she have?
Sherwood Park is a rural town, where hardly any cabs are spotted. Their only other option was Uber, but even that wasn’t ideal. They knew drivers would be coming from other towns and it would take a long time. The couple were eager to get home, but in the end, they did the responsible thing and called an Uber. Shelly planned to come back for her car the next day, but as soon as she stepped outside she knew that wasn't going to happen.
The next day, there was a snowstorm. Though Canadians are used to heavy snowfall, sometimes they just have to stay indoors and ride it out - it’s too dangerous to be out there on the street. So Shelly was unable to retrieve her car from where she’d left it. Although she know she couldn't afford another parking ticket, she had no choice. Almost 48 hours later, she finally made it back. And guess what was waiting for her?
As soon as she saw her car, Shelly knew it wasn’t good. It was under four inches of snow, and she felt embarrassed for having left it there for so long. She started brushing off the layers of snow and ice so she could drive off. Then she noticed a note pinned to her windshield. It would seem as if she had really hit rock bottom this time.
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Given that she’d left the car there for so long, Shelly could only imagine what trouble she was now in. With her luck, she was sure it was another parking ticket, even though she’d never seen parking attendants at that lot. So she assumed it must be from the bar, angry that she’d blocked their entryway for almost two days. But when she looked closer at the note, her face turned beet red.
The note was, indeed, from the restaurant’s management. But they weren’t angry - in fact, it was quite the opposite. "I'm not sure if you had consumed alcohol at our restaurant or not," the note read. "But we wanted to thank you for not drinking and driving.” The letter was literally congratulating Shelly for leaving her car there. And there was more.
“Enclosed is a voucher for 1lb of our delicious chicken wings. Please accept this as a thank you for being responsible. Life is valuable, have a great weekend,” ended the letter. It was signed by Jay McLean, managing partner at Original Joe’s. Shelly was speechless - it was the last thing she expected. Wanting to spread the word about this act of kindness, she took to Facebook.
“When I found the letter on my windshield, I thought I was getting in trouble for leaving my car in front of the entryway to the pub. Wow! I'm so impressed. Definitely going back,” wrote Shelly on a Facebook post where she shared a picture of the note. The story clearly hit the right notes, because it soon went viral.
Not long after she shared the letter, Shelly’s post had been shared almost 5,000 times. She was happy about the attention, mostly because it might inspire other businesses to do the same and institute rewards programs that encourage patrons to be responsible. And in fact, this idea didn’t originate with Mr. McLean.
Shelly later spoke to McLean, who told her he’d been leaving these notes for a year and a half, after hearing about another bar that was doing the same. "I just thought operating a restaurant in a rural type area like Sherwood Park where transit is minimal and a lot of people drive, I just thought it was the perfect match," McLean told CTV News. Though some accused him of ulterior motives.
As with everything that goes viral on the Internet, there were skeptics. Though most of the commenters on Shelly’s post said positive things, some suggested McLean was only doing it to advertise his business. Angered by this insinuation, Shelly made a follow-up post to shut down the naysayers.
“Jay, is a great guy, truly only doing what he feels is right. I can't believe that some people actually are accusing him of taking advantage of the situation. He's been doing it for over a year, with no expectations. Just being a good guy,” wrote Shelly. Whatever his reasons, it’s hard to deny the benefits of discouraging drunk driving.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving
According to advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving, every 51 seconds a person dies in an accident involving drunk driving. It is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., so it’s hard to blame anybody who tries to raise awareness of the issue. As McLean wrote in his note to Shelly, life is valuable - so we should all act accordingly.