A Tense Moment
Maria felt tense immediately after doing it. Suddenly she doubted herself and realized that this was going to cause problems for her. When she knew her manager wanted to see her, she tensed up.
She walked over to the office with her heart racing like a freight train. Why did she ever think that she could get away with it? She was in trouble now and she knew it.
Maria Balboa was only 19-years-old. She hailed from Texas and was a student at the A&M University. To make some extra money, she also worked as a bagger at the local H-E-B Store.
Like most young people, Maria was heavily influenced by social media culture. However, her penchant for enjoying viral stories led her to post about something that happened at work. It did go viral but now she was afraid that all the attention was going to land her in trouble.
Life Wasn’t Easy
Maria had faced many struggles growing up. Her parents weren’t around and she had been raised by her maternal grandmother. Money was always tight but she was never short of love and attention from her grandma who also tried to raise her with good values.
Maria lacked the kind of study and career opportunities that many of her middle-class friends enjoyed. She was forced to find her own ways of making extra pocket money and the means she used weren’t what one might call typical.
Her life had been an up and down road at times but she was always grateful for her grandma who kept her grounded. The relationship the pair shared was great and Maria never wanted to ever let her down.
The old lady had taught her many wise lessons over the year and had become her moral compass in life. When the incident happened, one of grandma’s old lessons immediately sprung to mind.
Life As A Student
Maria had to work harder than most to secure herself a college education. While she managed to secure partial funding, she still needed some extra money for other expenses that weren’t covered.
She was barely a month into her job at the H-E-B and when she started, she had no idea that she would go viral there. Now it was too late and she worried about the consequences.
The Old Woman
On the day in question, Maria couldn’t help noticing an elderly Hispanic woman when she appeared at the store with two young kids in tow. For some reason, Maria felt instantly drawn to her and watched her shopping from afar.
The little old lady and the kids moved around from shelf to shelf and Maria kept an eye on them. Maria did not know it at the time but it was an unusual twist of fate that brought them together.
Eventually, the lady and the kids made their way to the tills to pay. Maria noticed that her shopping cart was full of groceries. Maria silently watched from the end of the till as the cashier rang up all the items.
Things seemed to be going normally. However, when all the groceries were scanned and the cashier told the old lady the total, that was when things took a turn.
It Made Her Sad
The total came to $137 even. When the old lady opened her purse, Maria noticed that she had a SNAP card which was a government assistance card. This obviously meant that she wasn’t financially independent and likely struggling.
As the old woman tried to pay for her groceries, something was wrong. Maria immediately felt for her and the scene that was being caused.
She Was Short
From what Maria overheard from the cashier, the old lady only had $19 left on her SNAP card. This broke Maria’s heart as it meant she would only be able to leave the store with a handful of the groceries that she actually did pick out.
Sounding disheartened, the old lady asked the cashier to start removing most of the items and said that she would just keep a few things for that night’s dinner. Maria knew she had to do something and stepped in.
It Was Instinctive
Maria would later explain to news outlets that she felt almost compelled to help the old lady. She felt so connected to her for some reason that she could not allow her to leave the store in that manner.
This wasn’t the strangest part. When Maria later elaborated, she mentioned that it almost felt like “God” was telling her to do this. However, Maria had no idea just how much this favor would end up impacting her.
The Lady’s Story
And that’s what she did. The old lady was moved by Maria’s gesture, and she thanked her with tears in her eyes.
She also told Maria about her story and why she couldn’t pay for the groceries from her own pocket. And as Maria learned, she and the lady had more in common than what may have seemed at first sight.
She Was Grateful
“She explained that she had taken in her two grandkids when they were left by their mother,” Maria told the media later on.
“This was why money had been tight for her, and she had to take a lower-paying job so they wouldn’t go into the foster care system. She thanked me for my kindness that day because it really helped her out.”
But Something Was Wrong
Maria was glad to have done a good deed for the day. She got ready to resume her work, but right then, she noticed something.
Two of her managers had been watching the whole scene from a distance, and she heard one of them murmuring, “Did she really do that?” It seemed like her problems had just started.
Shortly after the lady and her two grandkids walked out the door, the boss called Maria into her office. He wanted to talk to her about something.
What could be the problem? Had she made a mistake by paying for the lady’s groceries? Maria’s heart and mind were racing as she walked towards the office, wondering if she was in trouble.
But when she got there, her boss was smiling. He had heard what she had done for the lady through the managers. He thought of it as a kind gesture that made her appreciate Maria as an employee even more.
So much so that he reimbursed her the $137 and also gave her a gift basket to show his appreciation. But in a different state, a similar occurrence would leave a restaurant flocked by police.
This particular event occurred in a Chinese-themed restaurant in Los Angeles, where Harry, a twenty-three-year-old, would get in trouble for doing something similar to what Maria did.
But in Harry’s case, his managers would take a more drastic measure than simply reimbursing him. He’d live to remember that day for the rest of his life.
Harry Gonzalez lived a life no different than Maria’s. He, too, had managed to fight through the uncertainties brought about by living in a struggling family.
He’d done the best with his life, landing a partial scholarship to one of the city’s most prestigious universities. Since the scholarship only covered his tuition, Harry sought work to support himself.
A Fine Upbringing
Living with his abuela and two older cousins, Harry had grown up knowing the importance of hard work, independence, and, most importantly, a giving heart.
His abuela had instilled in him all these values; through them, Harry had achieved so much in his life. So, it didn’t come as a surprise when he snagged a restaurant cashier cum waiter job. He had no idea what the future held for him.
Living His Best Life
Harry loved everything about his job. Not only did it allow him to keep all his bills in check, but it also balanced well with his social life and education.
Since the restaurant focused on authentic Chinese cuisine, it was also a great place to learn a new culture, which brought Harry so much joy. But things would soon take a turn for the worst.
Three Months Pass
Harry had been working at the restaurant for almost three months. He’d been making his employers proud so far, even going out of his way to make the restaurant a website that helped bring in new customers.
Harry was sure that helping the older man who came in was the right thing to do. But everything would soon become apparent when the police flocked the restaurant.
Like many across the globe, we tend to judge people by their looks. Sometimes, looks can be deceptive, a crucial fact that we should always consider.
For Harry, stepping in to help that man had been simply making sure that he didn’t go hungry. But the events would slowly unfold, leaving him and the entire city completely dumbfounded.
A Hot Afternoon
The day had been leaning toward a hot afternoon when the man walked into the restaurant. Despite the heat outside, the man had wrapped a thick woolen coat over himself.
He also had a cap, which perfectly hid his stare. Harry locked eyes with him the moment he stepped into the restaurant. He thought this was a regular customer looking to have some of their famous Peking duck with a side of sauteed green beans. He was wrong.
At first glance, the man’s clothing seemed worn. But on a closer look, Harry realized that the clothes were new, albeit a little dirty.
As he always did when customers walked into the restaurant, he hurried over with a menu, ushering the man to his preferred booth and telling him about the day’s special. He wasn’t even done talking when the man made a very odd request.
“He asked if we do to-go, to which I said yes,” Harry recalled while sharing his story at a local podcast. “He quickly ordered his food, barely even staying in his booth.”
Harry shared that the man seemed on edge, constantly looking out the window as if he was in trouble. “That’s when I decided to ask him if something was wrong.”
He Wants To Leave
The man gave Harry a blank stare. Seemingly agitated, he sprung to his feet, looking to leave the restaurant. But he stopped after a few steps, turning to Harry with glossy eyes.
“I didn’t know what to think,” Harry shared. “I was afraid I had struck a nerve, and he was leaving.” Harry knew his excellent reputation would be tainted if the man left, but he didn’t care. He was worried about what could’ve made the man stand up so fast.
Walking Out Without Paying
“Look, kid,” the man said. “I think I should go.” Harry insisted he stay, but the man would share something that would make him think otherwise.
“He said he didn’t even have the money for lunch and had planned to walk away with the food,” said Harry. “Despite feeling like something bad was about to happen, I just had to help him.”
The Food Is On Him
Harry insisted the man sit down and hurried to the kitchen, only returning with food in a to-go box. He told the man the food was on him, adding that he hoped he liked everything.
But instead of leaving, the man stared at Harry, seemingly unsure of what was happening. His gaze bounced from the food to Harry, and his brows furrowed. He would do the unexpected.
Inside His Coat
The man sat in his booth and unwrapped the food. But before digging in, he reached into his coat, pulling out a firearm and placing it on the furthest end of the table.
He turned to Harry, who was frozen in place and asked him to call 911 and report the citing of a fugitive in the restaurant. He casually ate his food, his cheeks glistening as a distant smile spread across his face. What was happening?
As it turns out, Harry had just served one of the city’s most wanted criminals, an escaped convict who had been on the run for months.
On one of his court hearings, the man shared that he’d been stunned by the waiter’s heart. If there was one good soul on earth, a waiter who offered him a hot meal at his expense, then maybe he, too, could change his ways.
A Good Deed
Although the restaurant didn’t reimburse Harry for the man’s food, it promoted him to acting assistant manager, offering to train him in the role until he became competent enough to step into it fully.
For Harry, lending a hand to someone in need was enough. But knowing that his kind gesture changed another person’s heart, making them want to be better, was everything.