When a homeless man attempts to buy a birthday cake but finds himself short of cash, the café owner kicks him out. The latter soon realizes he made a mistake when he leaves his store momentarily, and he does something that brings tears to the homeless man’s eyes.
Zach sank onto a curb, too tired to walk any further. As a homeless man, life was a struggle for him every day, but that day had been excessively tiring because he was looking for a new place to stay. He had been sleeping in an alley until he was kicked out by the cops patrolling the neighborhood that morning.
Wondering what other troubles awaited him that day, Zach was sitting on the curb when he heard the faint sound of someone sobbing. He turned and saw a little girl with pigtails crying not far from him.
“Looks like I’m not the only one having a bad day,” Zach sighed as he looked at the girl.
“Hello there, little miss!” he said from a distance. “You having a bad day too? Why you crying?”
The girl looked at him for a moment, then turned away. “Don’t talk to me,” she replied, sniffing. “Mommy says I shouldn’t talk to strangers.”
“Oh, well, my mommy said that too! Now she’s in heaven!” he said. “She also said that sharing your worries can make you feel better!”
“What if you’re a bad guy?” she asked, looking at him. “You can hurt me!”
Zach laughed. “That’s not true,” he said with a pout. “In fact, I should be scared of little girls with pigtails. They look so frightening when they cry! Oh no! I should leave, I think!”
That remark brought a smile to the little girl’s lips. “You’re so silly! You’re so big, and you get scared? You’re a scared cat!”
“I’m Zach,” he said. “What’s your name? Please don’t cry again! It scares me!”
“I’m Milly!” the girl replied and walked toward Zach. “I am not scary, Zach! You’re so dramatic!”
“Ok, ok…So why were you crying?”
“I lost my way,” said Milly sadly. “I was playing with my friends when they all ran after a puppy, and I didn’t join them because I’m afraid of dogs, and I—I don’t know how to get home…We just moved to that new house two weeks ago… And it’s my birthday today. My mommy will be worried if I don’t get home soon.” Tears gathered around her eyes again.
A little kindness costs nothing but goes a long way.
“Oh, don’t worry. I’ll help you get home…Do you at least remember any landmarks near your home? I’m familiar with the area.”
Milly shook her head. “My house has a beautiful garden, and our neighbors are very sweet. And there’s a big tree in our house!”
Zach sighed, knowing that the information he had would not help him find Milly’s house. He could, however, ask the cops for help, so he decided to take Milly to the police station.
“Listen, Milly. We will go to the cops, ok? They will help you out. Don’t be sad.”
Milly nodded. “Thank you, Zach.”
“Shall we?” he asked, extending his hand to the girl to hold, which Milly grabbed quickly.
On their way, Milly told Zach how excited she was about her birthday. There was a party that afternoon, and her mom had promised to bake her favorite cake. Her dad had told her he’d be home early from his shop. Luckily, it was a Saturday, so there was no school.
“Will the cops really be able to help us, Zach?” Milly asked.
“They will, Milly,” he said. “Let’s not lose hope, ok?”
Milly and Zach were still a few minutes away from the police station when Zach spotted a cafe. He felt bad that Milly was upset, so he decided to surprise her with a cake and told her to wait outside for him.
Inside the cafe, Zach’s gaze darted across the various desserts displayed in a glass case before settling on a chocolate cake.
“Hello, sir,” he said to the man at the counter. “I’d like to have that chocolate cake, please.”
Zach took out all the money from his rag, knowing that if he got that cake, he’d go hungry because he would be spending his last dollar on it. But he also knew seeing Milly smile would mean the world to him. No kid deserved to be sad on their birthday, Zach thought.
He counted his money and his face fell. He couldn’t even afford the cake.
“I’m sorry. I don’t think I have enough for the cake, sir. Could you probably give me a discount?” he asked the seller. “This cake is not for me, but for someone special who’s very sad today. Can you get me a slice instead? I—I have $3…Would that be enough?”
The seller looked at the sticky dollar bills and coins in Zach’s hands and felt bad for him. “Sorry, but you can’t even afford the slice with that! But, uh, well, hope my boss doesn’t see it…I’ll get the slice, just a second.”
But luck was not in Zach’s favor. The store owner overheard the conversation and began yelling at his employee. “If you want to do charity, do it elsewhere!” he told the seller. “When did we start entertaining beggars in this place, huh?”
“OUT!” yelled the owner before Zach could say anything. “I’ve had beggars coming to my store earlier, too, to ask for food for free! Out! Don’t waste my time!”
Zach wanted to request the piece of cake again, but he didn’t even bother after being disrespected like that. With a heavy heart, he exited the cafe.
“I’m sorry, Milly,” he said. “I wanted to get you a cake, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have enough money.”
“Oh no!” Milly cupped her right hand over her head. “But that’s ok, Zach! You’re a very sweet person…You tried, at least!” She asked him to bend down so she could hug him and she did. “When we reach my home, I’ll ask mom to give you the BIGGEST piece of my cake. You don’t need to be sad.”
“Thank you, Milly,” Zach said. “Come, let’s take you home.”
Zach and Milly were about to leave when the man who yelled at Zach stepped out of the cafe and spotted them. “You! Beggar! What are you trying to do, huh? MILLY!” he yelled, and Zach turned around to see the man enraged.
“Daddy?” Milly ran up to him and hugged him. “Daddy! Zach helped me! Don’t be mad at him!”
“What?” The man was shocked. “You know him?”
Milly told him everything, and the man, Steven, was in tears.
“Jesus! I was so wrong!” he said apologetically. “Hey, Zach, please forgive me. I didn’t know you were helping Milly. I feel so embarrassed right now about what I did… This cafe is kinda new, an extension of my business, so we’re still working on it.”
“It’s okay, sir,” Zach replied. “I’m glad I could help Milly…”
But Steven was still feeling guilty. He wanted to make amends, so he invited Zach to the cafe and served him food.
While eating, Zach told Steven about how he was struggling to find a place to sleep, and that’s when an idea came to Steven’s mind. He had rented out an old apartment, which he was not using, and he gave it to Zach.
“You can stay there as long as you want—”
“But, sir, that’s too much. I—I can’t pay the rent, and—”
“I never asked you for the rent, Zach. I’ll take care of it. This pales in comparison to the trouble you went through for Milly. Please, I insist. You can start using it tomorrow. I’ll get the cleaning done early tomorrow, and you’re welcome to stay at our house until then. We have a spare room.”
“Yes, Zach,” Milly chirped. “You helped me, so let us help you too! And yes, you have to come to my party for the biggest slice of cake!”
Zach was moved to tears by the family’s generosity. He couldn’t believe he’d met people who not only provided him with food and shelter but also treated him like family. He was grateful for their affection and company, which he hadn’t experienced in years.
What can we learn from this story?
Kindness is a contagious disease. Zach helped Milly when he found her in trouble, and Steven did the same when he learned Zach was struggling to find a roof over his head.
A little kindness costs nothing but goes a long way. Zach’s kindness in helping a lost Milly earned him a family’s love and company.
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