So I was at Empire Grill yesterday.
I have this strange order, where I basically get a baguette with a bunch of salad in it. It’s not on the actual menu, but they just charge me 5 bucks for it.
I ordered and was ready to pay. I only had a few dollars on me, and asked if I could pay with my card.
My arms holding my card went limp when the sweet woman who works there nodded a “no.”
I only had three dollars on me.
The friend I was with couldn’t lend me cash.
So I am standing there in line, searching through my wallet, as if cash will suddenly appear.
Before I knew it, an arm with a few dollars came jutting into the scene.
I turned around to face a Bachur with a brown yarmulke and the most sincere expression on his face.
“Here, take it.”
No, that’s okay. I can’t take your money, really…thank you…”
I’m still hurriedly pacing through my receipts and cards.
But the Bachur insisted.
“Here. Really. It’s just a few dollars. Take it, and give the change to Tzedakah.”
“No, no, really.”
I tried to be very firm about my refusal to take his money.
But nothing would stop him.
“Please, just take it. Don’t worry about it. Just do the same for someone else someday.”
I almost melted, but still couldn’t bare the thought of taking a strangers money.
I said, “but I will worry about it. I just….can’t.”
The lady at the desk was sweet: “No problem, just pay the difference another time.”
But I didn’t want to do that either!
So, while I pretended to have hidden money in the recesses of my wallet, the Bachur kept on insisting.
He was so natural about it, like he does this for people everyday or something.
He wasn’t going to put the money back in his wallet.
His kindness was so obviously coming from the truest place.
I finally submitted.
With my cheeks probably totally flushed, I accepted the young man’s money.
I felt like a total flake.
I sat down next to my friend, totally flustered and slightly awkward.
Across the room, the Bachur sat down to eat his food.
The whole time I’m thinking, “He paid for almost half of my meal, and he’s just sitting across the room.”
It just felt funny.
But I was very moved by the whole thing.
When he was done with his food, he got up to leave.
Before I knew it, I was out of my seat chasing after him.
“Wait! Can I at least have your name?”
He gave me his name, and I thanked him again.
With one of those “no problem” waves and a cool “yea, sure, you’re welcome, don’t worry ‘bout it" - he was off.
When I was ready to leave, the woman at the cashier smiled at me and said, “That was so sweet, that boy paying for your meal…”
Clearly, she too was moved.
I’m not amazed that he offered. But what did make an impression on me was how sincere he was about it – so sincere that I felt like I was making him happy by taking his money!
It was probably the first time in my life that I felt like a stranger really wanted me to take something from them, and felt that they were genuine and serious about doing something for me. It just doesn’t happen everyday.
Something felt very good about being able to accept kindness from a so-called stranger. Deep inside, I had to find a very humble place to be able to accept the money.
Also, with this little happening came the realization that the world really goes round because of the kindness of others, no matter how seemingly small it may be.
Either way, maybe he reads this. I was so totally flustered, and – despite him so obviously not wanting my thanks – I didn’t get a chance to really tell him how thoughtful I thought it was.
It’s very possible that I will never see him again, let alone be given the opportunity to repay him.
But I am definitely more inspired to do more of what they call "random acts of kindness."
Thank you, Zalman.