Sometimes a little unexpected kindness goes a long way.

Recently, my mother, my sisters and I were eating lunch at Dysart’s truck stop and restaurant in Bangor.

Earlier that day, we had been at Eastern Maine Medical Center, where we spent several hours with one of us undergoing tests and being prepped for major surgery.

But after all was said and done, and minutes before the scheduled operation, we and the surgeon decided it was too risky. After a long discussion, we decided to cancel it and go home. One of us had dodged a bullet.

We were tired, hungry and a bit mentally weary, but overall, relieved.

We decided what we all needed was a good lunch.

We drove south on Interstate 95 and got off the exit by Dysart’s, parked and went inside.

It was about 2 p.m. — a fairly quiet time for a restaurant typically packed with patrons.

We found a long table near the door, seated ourselves and ordered lunch.

There were a few people sitting nearby, here and there, but no large parties.

I can’t remember everything we talked about at that lunch, but I’m sure we discussed the canceled surgery and the fact that, in the long run, we all were relieved.

It’s rare that we four sisters and our mother get to have lunch together, as we all lead busy lives and are flying in opposite directions all day, every day.

So it was a nice respite, albeit not under the best of circumstances.

Anyway, when we had finished and were ready to go, the waitress came to our table, ostensibly to give us our bill.

Instead, she announced that our lunch had been paid for — by a man who had been sitting at a nearby table.

We were surprised and confused. We looked around the mostly empty room. A couple at another table said that had happened to them once.

Who was this man, we asked our waitress. Did she know him? Was he a regular?

She said she did not know him, but suggested we ask the woman at the counter who had taken his payment.

I approached the hostess, who said she knew only that his name was Ken. Our bill was $66.10, and he had paid it and left.

My sisters and I vaguely remembered a man sitting alone, near our table, as we lunched. He was probably in his 60s and quiet. One of my sisters thought he ate only a salad.

We left Dysart’s and drove away, both awed and mesmerized by this generous and unexpected gift from a man none of us knew — or ever got the chance to thank.

We wondered if he heard our conversation at the table. Did he know we were sisters and mother? Where did he come from? Did he do this sort of thing often?

We spent a lot of time that day thinking about him and relaying the story to family and friends. We still mention him now and then.

His gesture reminds me that in a world where so many bad things happen every day, there are people who are good and thoughtful and kind.

And when someone like Ken spreads such kindness, it prompts others to follow suit.

It’s called paying it forward. And it makes the world a better place.

Thank you, Ken, wherever you are. You made our day. And I hope your gift is returned, threefold.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 25 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]