Cielito Lindo Mexican Grill in Pigeon Forge is popular for tourists and locals alike, and on Tuesday night it became a place where two unlikely friends met.
“We walked into the restaurant, and my daughter is obsessed with police officers and she was pointing and yelling 'cop!' across the restaurant," said Michelle Ownby.
Ownby's 5-year-old daughter Maddie, who is a Kindergartener at Pi Beta Phi Elementary School, sat down for dinner, but she continued to say 'hi' to three Pigeon Forge police officers who were sitting nearby.
"She kept smiling and sneaking over to the police officers,” said Ownby.
Unknown to the Ownbys, a kind stranger paid for the three officers' dinners. Now, they too were looking to pay it forward.
“As soon as the waitress told us that, that’s when Maddie and her family walked in. She stood out so we decided we’d try and help pay for their meal," said Officer Lynn Miller.
Miller has served for the PFPD for 11 years. He says he is not the only police officer to show this act of kindness.
"Officers have done this a number of times. It just happens Miss Maddie could shine a light on a the subject with that little smile of hers," said Miller.
"A cop gave me money to pay for my dinner," said Maddie.
Maddie "maybe" wants to be a police officer, but she may end up being a teacher.
"I like police because they help people," said Maddie.
At the end of the officers' dinner, Miller walked up to Maddie and asked her a question.
"I asked her permission if I could pay for her meal and she stated yes. The way she said it was cute, so I handed her the $10 bill and she said, 'thank you very much' and she gave me a big old huge high five," said Miller.
The next day, Maddie and her family went to the Pigeon Forge Police Department and Miller gave them a tour.
Maddie giggled every time she made a siren go off.
"I like that," said Maddie.
She saw the records room, the holding cells, a police motorcycle and a police car.
“I really appreciate it. I think it's was kind to show my 5-year-old that police officers are there, they’re nice and they do have kindness," said Ownby.
Miller said Maddie reminds him of his daughter, who is about the same age. Both love to smile.
"They don’t know any different right now. Heck - it's our jobs as adults to teach them right and wrong, and how to act, and how to treat people. Hopefully, we got the opportunity to do so. I know she made a big deal inside this building here,” said Miller.
Miller believes more people should treat each other with kindness, and "act straight from the heart."
"Act straight from the heart. Not because you have to or you're looking for something in return. Just out of the kindness of your heart and good things happen," said Miller.
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