On Wednesday February 25th, my oldest daughter, Madison, and I went on a "date." We both love Nick's Hometown Grill in downtown Durand -- I tell anyone that will listen that I have searched high and low for a similar potato salad, but, I've never found anything quite as miraculous. Add salad bar for a buck?! Yes, please!

As you can imagine, the more family members that get added to the equation, the more opinions on where to eat there are, so, we don't get to eat at Nick's nearly as much as Madison and I would like. So naturally, on our date, we opted for Nick's.

Our meals were great -- well, what we ate of them. Between the salad bar and playing tic-tac-toe, the word search and other activities on the 'Nick's Kids' sheet, there wasn't a whole lot of room in our stomachs or time to finish. We considered dessert, but opted against. Nick's invites guests to "Sit Long. Talk Much." We had already more than obliged.

It was late afternoon -- not quite dinner time, so the dining room had plenty of seating. I didn't feel too guilty, besides, this is a special occasion. We don't get out, just the two of us, too often.

Our server, Nicole, was perfectly attentive and courteous. It turned out to be a very nice daddy/daughter date.

I grabbed the bill and we headed to the front to pay.

I pulled my wallet from my back pocket and reached for my card as the cashier said "Your bill..." In my head I finished her sentence. I knew what the total was and I had already decided on our server's tip. She continued, "...has been taken care of."

I literally froze. I wasn't even sure what to say. I knew that this was most likely intended to be an anonymous gesture but I wasn't even sure if it was inappropriate to ask. But I did anyway. "Can I ask by who?"

"Just someone sitting in there."

All the emotions.

I mean, I was more than appreciative of the gesture, but I felt obligated to say "thank you" to someone and I knew that I couldn't and that is a form of frustration I have never actually felt. I mean, I'm saying it now, but, it's so... non-personal.

But, truly, thank you. It really was a beautiful and inspiring moment.

I could see some of the faces that were in dining room in my mind. When we first walked in there was a woman sitting alone and a couple that seemed to be friendly with the staff. Another couple came in about halfway through our meal and I remember that a couple gentlemen walked in shortly before we were leaving.

None of them seemed familiar. Then a moment of guilt hit -- what if I hadn't recognized someone?

Why did someone do this? I mean, not that it matters, and again, I'm humbled and thankful. But, is it someone that knew me? Is it someone that recognized my daughter? Is it someone that thought a daddy/daughter date was sweet?

What is this person's story? Was there an event where someone made a similar gesture toward them and they were so moved that they wanted to pay it forward?

I like to give. It's hard sometimes though, right? Bills to pay, mouths to feed, etc... But I felt it immediately -- an urgency to share this feeling with someone. Someone else has to experience this awesome emotion of helpless gratitude.

That's really what it is. Helpless gratitude.

There are so many unanswerable elements of this event, but at the core is appreciation, and all that one is left to do is throw a "thank you" out into the universe and pay it forward.