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Thursday, May 12, 2005

It is wonderful to have fed throughout my life at least a thousand people many times over. My family has had a restaurant since I was 7 years old. We have been in business for twenty years. Throughout those years I have met interesting and intriguing people. Never had I thought that the importance of how a simple meal can have such an impact on someone’s life.
On a chilly November night 14 years ago, our family was faced with a situation in which we all will never forget. Working in the family restaurant as a child was always a necessity for our family’s success. On this particular chilly night, a man had approached my mother in a fashion unlike the normal customer. He had pulled her to the back of the restaurant to talk to her. Now being as young and naïve as I may have been, I still thought that all was well. This man had appeared to be disheveled and despondent, but in the business you cannot pass judgment on potential customers. My father was out on a delivery during this twilight event. I was doing my normal every day cleaning duties as required by my position at the time. I had noticed the peculiar nature of this particular customer, but I witnessed my mother being calm and courteous as she always has been. Little did I know the importance of the situation.
As my mother was talking to this certain individual, my father had returned from the delivery. He had passed my mother and this certain man as I was mopping the floor. The next occurrence would all have taken so quickly. Our family carries a weapon just in case of extreme circumstances. Now I witness this weapon being put to use. It turns out that the man who had pulled my mother to the side had had his hand in his pullover shirt pointing his finger to make it appear he had a gun and had demanded money from my mother. Now, my mother being as intelligent and wise as she was, downplayed the situation to try and diffuse any potential violence. As my father passed this man he went to the register and grabbed the gun. The next thing I know my father has this gun pointing at this man and he’s yelling, “Get against the wall!” The man complied and appeared too scared as your stereotypical armed robber. My father demanded me to call the police and I did.
The man had his hands against the wall and was apologizing the whole time until the police came. I was very excited not ever witnessing such a dramatic scenario in my life. When the police came, questions were asked and the true meaning of this man’s folly came out. I can’t remember his name, but I will never forget his story. This man had been a lawyer prior to this incident. His law firm had fell through. As a result, he lost his house and in turn, lost his wife and children. He had been on the streets for months and was hungry. Now being on his last resort, he decided to demand money instead of food from my mother. Now hearing this story, my mother being as compassionate as she always is, felt sorry for this particular individual. We all did. The police asked if we wanted to press charges against this person and we declined. Instead, my mother decided to feed the man. The police disliked the decision, but my mother knew what was right and what was wrong. The man ate his food with the utmost appreciation.
The situation was almost forgotten until a year later. A well-dressed gentleman entered the restaurant and ordered food. After I had served him, he smiled at me and asked if I remembered him. I replied that I did not remember him. He then said that he was the person that my father had against the wall one year ago. I was shocked. I could not believe the transformation the man had undertaken. I called my mother to the front and told her who he was. She smiled and asked him what had occurred over the year.
It turns out that the incident that occurred a year before had turned this lawyer into the right path of determination. He had realized that he had done wrong, but when your hungry and cold, one might go with the last sort of reasoning. This man knew that he had committed a crime out of desperation and hunger and decided to focus his energy on getting his life back. After the incident, he had called his family and strove to find work. He did. He started his own law firm and is still successful today. I haven’t seen the man still until this day. But what I do know is a simple heart had turned around a man and his life. The kind heart of my mother helped this man enter into the world of reality instead of desperate illusions. The same kind heart that we all have. It’s amazing what one meal can do. You may wonder what would have become of the man if my mother had pressed charges. That should give one food for thought.