It was a jam-packed day for 24-year-old Justin. While his hot dog stand at the local park in his hometown did well on a daily basis, that day was different. The stall was brimming with customers, and he was struggling to keep up.
“3 hot dogs and extra sauces, please!” someone ordered as Justin handed the recent orders, and he quickly got about his work.
“Coming right up!” he replied with a smile as he quickly assembled the three hot dogs and added a generous amount of sauces on top.
“Thank you! Have a nice day!” the customer replied upon receiving the orders, and Justin quickly got busy with the next one. While he was at it, he noticed an old woman pushing her way through the crowd to get to his counter.
“Excuse me, son. How much would a hot dog be?” she asked, looking at him.
“Depends on what you want, ma’am. They range from $3 to $7. You can check out the menu and let me know what you want,” he replied while assembling a fresh hot dog.
“But that’s a touch expensive for me,” she mumbled, looking at the prices. “It’s alright. I was just curious how much they cost. I don’t want any,” she added before walking away.
Justin noticed she went and sat alone on a bench across from his stand. She kept looking in his direction, and he realized she wanted a hot dog but couldn’t afford one. He felt bad for her, so he quickly assembled one for her and brought it to her.
“I apologize, ma’am. I was in such a rush I forgot to tell you that you’re our 50th customer of the day, so you get a free hot dog! It’s on the house,” he said. “Let me know how you like it!”
“Oh, is that so?” the old lady asked sheepishly. “I appreciate that, son. Thank you. I’m Emily, by the way.”
“I’m Justin. Here,” he said, offering the hot dog to her. She tasted it immediately and was shocked at how delicious it was. “You put something in there, didn’t you?” she asked. “It’s different from regular hot dogs,” she added, taking another bite.
Justin grinned. “I love cooking, so I keep trying different things with my food. My mom was also a fantastic cook who created her own recipes for her secret sauces. I once recommended to my supervisor that I use my mother’s sauces on my hot dogs, but he said it was too expensive and forbade me from doing so. But I just make it for my friends on occasion. I’m glad you enjoyed it! Anyway, I need to rush. I have customers waiting for me. Have a wonderful day,” he said and hurried away.
“It’s now yours, Justin. This is your cafe,” she said, and Justin looked at her, puzzled. “My cafe? What do you mean?”
Emily devoured the hot dog, and Justin smiled as he watched her joyfully eat from afar. He was glad to have helped the old woman.
The next day, when Emily returned to the park, Justin spotted her and treated her to a hot dog again. Emily refused because she didn’t have money, but he insisted, and she couldn’t say no.
“I am so happy that someone’s trying out my mom’s sauces, Emily. Trust me, I don’t mind paying for it from my pocket. And by the way, if you see it from my perspective, it isn’t really free. Your feedback matters to me so I can improve my sauces and my business!” he exclaimed.
“Oh, you’re such a sweet boy, Justin,” Emily smiled through tears. “Thank you.”
Deep down, Emily knew Justin was feeding her because she couldn’t afford the hot dog. She felt bad at one point and told him it wasn’t needed. But he kept feeding her every day. And not just that. He paid special attention to her hot dog and would prepare hers using poppy seed buns because they were her favorite, and then he would generously top it up with his secret sauces.
One day, when Emily went to the park again, Justin spotted her and waved her a “hi.” Emily strolled to his stand and stopped in front.
“So today, I am making one of my mom’s most special recipes, Emily. You have to try it out and tell me how you like it, okay?” he said.
Emily shook her head. “Not today, Justin. I kept a count of the hot dogs you bought me, and you’ve already spent $100 on me. Nobody would do that for a stranger out of his own pocket these days of inflation and soaring prices. So now it’s my turn to help you, boy. Come with me.”
“Emily, I already told you—”
“I know, I know, your feedback story,” Emily smiled. “But you are coming with me, and I am not listening to anything more!”
Justin had no idea where she wanted to take him, but she was so insistent that he couldn’t say no. He closed his stand for the day and accompanied Emily, who led him to an old building that looked like an abandoned cafe.
“What is this place even? Why are we here?” Justin asked, confused as he stared at the building that needed extensive repairs.
“It’s now yours, Justin. This is your cafe,” she said, and Justin looked at her, puzzled.
“My cafe? What do you mean?” he asked.
Emily smiled. “My husband owned this cafe,” she said. “When he died 9 years ago, there was nobody to look after the business, and eventually it closed down. That would have never happened if I had known how to run the business. We had started this cafe together and thought our son would carry on the business.
“But he had other plans,” she sighed. “He just cares about making easy money and keeps demanding my savings. He got his hands on most of it and wanted me to sell this cafe so he could have the money from the sale. I refused because this reminds me of my husband, and I didn’t want to squander it on his nonsense. I asked him to rebuild it instead, but he refused.
“Then God made me meet you, Justin. Seeing how much you love cooking, I thought you deserve it. I remember once you told me you wanted to become a chef at a restaurant.
“I know I can’t help you with the refurbishing, but I can give you this property so you can start your own cafe. This is the least I can do in exchange for you feeding me. You see, I’ve been living off my husband’s savings, which isn’t much, and I can’t afford a lot, but because of you, I was able to have a delicious lunch almost every day. Thank you, son. I will always be grateful to you for that.”
Justin had tears in his eyes. “This means a lot to me, Emily, but giving away a whole property in exchange for hot dogs is just too much. It would be unfair if I accepted it. I can’t keep this, please….”
“You certainly can,” she said. “You didn’t just feed me. You didn’t expect anything in return for the kindness you showed me, and you’re still unwilling to receive anything in return. You are a selfless kid, Justin, and you deserve this. My husband and I will be happy if you take it. He would have loved to see a hardworking person running it. Please, I insist.”
When Emily kept pressing, Justin couldn’t say no. He took out a loan and borrowed some money from his friends and acquaintances in order to kickstart his business. It was slow when it started, but eventually, word spread about the café, and a lot of loyal customers who used to love the joint started popping up every day.
Justin had left his work as a hot-dog vendor by then, but he continued to make hot dogs at his new café, with three specialties on his menu—one named after his mother, who left behind a legacy of her delicious sauces, and the other two named after Emily and her late husband, David. But that wasn’t the end.
Justin, who had lost both of his parents in a horrible car accident when he was 12 years old, found a new companion and motherly figure in Emily, who was a huge fan of his cooking, especially his hot dogs and delicious sauces!
What can we learn from this story?
You don’t have to be rich to help someone; all you need is a kind heart willing to help others. While Justin didn’t have much money as a poor hot-dog vendor, he had the heart to feed a hungry Emily who couldn’t afford to buy it. And he did so daily, without expecting anything in return.
You might consider your help insignificant, but it can mean a lot to someone else. In Justin’s head, giving a free hot dog to Emily wasn’t something huge, but for Emily, it was a big help and an honorable act of kindness.
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If you enjoyed this story, you might like this one about a poor cafe waiter who is fired for feeding a hungry dog, only for the cafe owner to learn later that it was his dog.
This piece is inspired by stories from the everyday lives of our readers and written by a professional writer. Any resemblance to actual names or locations is purely coincidental. All images are for illustration purposes only.