A 7-Eleven store owner in Ohio is receiving praise after he confronted a hungry thief with kindness rather than coldness, an act that has resonated with thousands across the country.
On Saturday, Jitendra Singh said an employee alerted him to a “suspicious” shopper with sticky fingers at his Toledo convenience store. From his office, Singh watched via the store’s surveillance cameras as the teen slipped items including gum, candies and snack cakes into his pocket.
After instructing an employee to dial 911, the owner made his way to the store’s main area to confront the teen, who was already at the front paying for a few of the items.
“He said, ‘Oh, I’ll put it back,'” Singh recalled. “I said ‘No, put everything on the counter. I want to see all the things that you have.’ “
The teen reluctantly emptied his pockets. When Singh asked why he was stealing, the teen replied that it was to feed him and his younger brother.
“I said, ‘Well that’s not food. You are stealing gum and candies. That’s just something for munching,'” the owner told the young man. “I said, ‘If you’re hungry, ask me. I’ll give you food.’ “
At this point, the cashier was still on the phone with police, but Singh told them to hang up. He then proceeded to fill the teenager’s bag with chicken wings, a whole pizza, sausage rolls and other items that would make for a much better meal.
For Singh, there was no point in having the young man arrested.
“He’s a young kid. That will go on his record that he was a thief,” Singh told CBS News. “He cannot do anything in his life. He won’t get a good job. This will not solve his hunger problem.”
“He’s not a thief who’s going and stealing stuff and selling it,” he added.
A customer who witnessed the incident, Cedric Bishop, posted about the incident on Facebook and said the owner’s act of kindness spurred him to pay it forward.
“I THOUGHT THAT WAS AN AMAZING THING THE OWNER DID,” Bishop wrote. “I WAS SO TOUCHED, [THAT] I GAVE THE YOUNG MAN $10.00. SOME YOUNG PEOPLE JUST NEED TO KNOW THAT SOMEONE CARES. JUST THOUGHT I’D SHARE THIS WITH YOU. HAVE A BLESSED NIGHT.”
Singh said he had no idea his good deed would touch so many people. He explained that in Indian culture, giving food to the hungry is considered a deed that God will bless you for in the future.
“Customers are now coming back and saying, ‘You’re a good guy and you did a good thing,'” he said. “For me, it was not a big deal. … I did what any normal human being would’ve done in that situation.”
Watch more in the clip below.