This pregnant waitress was saved by a $900 tip, but that's not how it should be.

For seven years, Sarah Clark has worked as a waitress and bartender at Pita Jungle in Phoenix, Arizona.

It's the kind of place where people order hummus plates, gyros, and maybe a couple of beers. The work keeps Clark on her feet all day, and now that she's nine months pregnant, it's the kind of job that she needs even more, with her baby due on Jan. 8, 2017.

Clark working at Pita Jungle. Image via Inside Edition/YouTube.


Like far too many expectant parents in this country, Clark won't have any income after her baby is born. To make matters worse, her husband is out of work and about to undergo surgery for a leg injury. As reported by local CBS station KPHO, Clark has been working as much as she can, to make extra tips, at a time when many doctors recommend women stay off their feet.

But suddenly, a little bit of generosity arrived just in time.

A customer she'd see a few times before — a woman who is also pregnant — had left her an unusual tip after picking up a takeout order. Looking down at the thin slip of paper, it must have  looked like a mistake — a $900 tip on an order of $61.30.

The $900 tip Clark received. Image via Inside Edition/YouTube.

"Nine hundred dollars is a lot of money. It took a while for it to set in, and once it did I cried," she said.

"You always hear about these happening, but you never expect to be the recipient of it," Clark told KPHO. "It’s a huge, huge help for me and my family."

While the kind stranger in this story should be applauded for her generosity, no working family's financial security should depend on a random act of kindness.

The United States is one of a small handful of industrialized countries that does not offer paid maternity leave.

Things are particularly bleak in the service industry. According to Bloomberg, only 6% of service workers (such as waiters and sales clerks) get any paid leave at all. So time spent recovering from birth, bonding with your child, and adjusting to parenthood is limited by what you can afford.

The lack of paid parental leave limits parents' ability to bond with their newborn children. Photo via iStock.

On top of that, Clark works a tip-based job. So her employers are legally allowed to pay her well below the minimum hourly wage, expecting that her tips will make up for it.  

However, we can celebrate the U.S. companies that have recently offered paid parental leave in an attempt to catch up to the rest of the world.

Netflix announced in 2015 that it would give employees up to 12 months of parental leave to their salaried employees, and IKEA recently announced a four-month paid leave policy for its U.S. employees. Company by company and state by state, employers and lawmakers are beginning to recognize the necessity for paid parental leave.

It's not just a convenience either. It's the right thing to do for families and businesses.

Paid parental leave should be the standard for all new parents. Photo via iStock.

Paid leave for new parents has been shown to improve employee retention at companies and reduce the need for public assistance like food stamp programs. When Google increased their paid maternity leave from 12 to 18 weeks, they noticed the benefits quickly:

"Mothers were able to take the time they needed to bond with their babies and return to their jobs feeling confident and ready," wrote YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki in an op-ed. "And it's much better for Google's bottom line — to avoid costly turnover, and to retain the valued expertise, skills, and perspective of our employees who are mothers."

Clark was lucky to serve such a generous customer, but her ability to comfortably raise a child shouldn't be a Christmas miracle. It should be the least she could ask for.

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Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

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Seeing someone who has a long record of sobriety—especially after a very public struggle—can be motivating and inspiring for others in different stages of their recovery journey. That's part of why actor Rob Lowe's announcement that he's reached 31 years sober is definitely something to celebrate.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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