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Story Behind Viral Post of Man’s Act of Charity at a Utah Denny’s Restaurant

The tale is heartwarming and a little bit heartbreaking. And now the man in a photo and story that went viral last week is sharing the reason behind it all.

"I've done this many times, but this is the one that got out," the man, who asked only to be identified as Briggs, told Dateline.

The act he is referring to caught the attention of thousands when it was posted on the Love What Matters Facebook page and Instagram last week. The posting began with a man, Briggs, walking into a Denny's restaurant in Utah. In a request the restaurant hostess reportedly deemed "very odd," the man asked to be seated in a section served by a single mother. The hostess knew her co-worker, a single mom being called "Crystal", was on shift that day. So she sat Briggs at Crystal's booth.

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For the next two hours, Briggs sat. He didn't order much for himself, but he did pay the tab for many of the families in the restaurant. When the hostess asked the man what sparked his giant act of kindness, he simply responded, "Family is everything. I've lost all mine."

In addition to paying for the meals, the man reportedly left his waitress Crystal a $1,500 tip, which allowed her and her son to move out of a homeless shelter.

When reached by Dateline, Briggs said that initial reports of him paying $1,000 to cover some of the families' meals are exaggerated; he really paid about $600 for everyone in the restaurant. The report about Crystal he says is true.

And the reason he wanted to help a single mother specifically?

"I grew up with a single mother of six. We were poor and homeless a lot," Briggs told Dateline. "I watched and suffered for years as I watched her work her hands to the bone to give us a good life. She raised us to be kind and help others. Many years down the road, I was facing prison and getting in trouble. It ended up causing me to lose my family because I was a really terrible person."

Briggs says he eventually turned his life around. He has opened his own business and become a success.

"Now I've been helping others as I was raised to do," he says. "Now it's time to pay it back."