It is literally every parent’s worst nightmare—the death of a child. While preparing their house for hurricane Sandy to hit back in 2012, Richard Specht’s 22-month-old son, Rees, drowned in the family’s backyard pond.
The family was completely wrecked.
Enduring the loss of a child is an unfathomable heartache. But the Spechts knew Rees’ legacy was far from over. In honor of his son, Richard decided to celebrate his memory in a way that would help others—through random acts of kindness.
The middle school science teacher and his wife launched what is now known in their community as the “ReesSpecht Life” memorial scholarship. Their mission is to provide scholarships to high school seniors who demonstrate the memorial’s core ideals, which “remind people the importance of Community, Compassion and Respect.”
Richard set out to encourage others to perform random acts of kindness, and the community responded in a huge way.
An anonymous member of the Spechts’ pay-it-forward movement dined at one of the many restaurants in New York’s Times Square. The bill came to $43.50, but the diner paid $3,043.50 after leaving the waitress a $3,000 tip!
The extremely generous gift came with three contingencies written on the back of the receipt:
“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.”
Abiding by the “rules” laid out for her, the waitress was able to track Richard down and share with him the random act of kindness that she experienced in memory of his son. Richard was overwhelmed with emotion.
He took a closer look at the receipt, which had the cardholder’s name on it, and realized the donor had been his student over a decade ago.
“I immediately recalled who he was and realized that I had him at least 10 years ago,” Richard writes. “This young man 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. Sadly, as with most of my students, I never really had a chance to talk to him again after he left my classroom and moved on to the ninth grade. To think that someone I had a decade ago would honor my little boy, or even remember his eighth grade science teacher in such a way, blows me away.”
Richard says that as a teacher, it was one of the most rewarding moments of his career to see how his relationship with a student wound up being the thing that shaped him the most—in lieu of standardized testing and quantifiable learning tactics.
“It all really comes back to kindness,” Richard writes. “Some things just cannot be measured, yet that does not mean we can’t identify it when we see it.”
The Specht family has found purpose through their pain.
Richard says he “ReesSpechts life,” and hopes others will be inspired to “go out and make a difference…We can all make a difference in this world, one Rees’ piece at a time.”