Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner.
But one night, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn.
He was walking towards the stairs when a teen-aged boy approached him and pulled out a knife.
“He wanted my money, so I just gave him my wallet and said, ‘Here you go,'” Diaz says.
As the teen began to walk away, Diaz yelled, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”
The would-be robber looked at Diaz, “like what’s going on here?” Diaz says. “He asked me, ‘Why are you doing this?'”
Diaz replied: “If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner, and if you really want to join me…hey, you’re more than welcome.”
“You know, I just felt maybe he really needed help,” Diaz explained.
Diaz and the teen-ager went into the diner and sat in a booth.
“The manager, dishwashers and waiters came by to say hi,” Diaz says. “The kid was like, ‘You know everybody here. Do you own this place?'”
“No, I just eat here a lot,” Diaz told the teen. “He said, ‘But you’re even nice to the dishwasher.'”
Diaz replied, “Well, haven’t you been taught you should be nice to everybody?”
“Yea, but I didn’t think people actually behaved that way,” the teen said.
Diaz asked him what he wanted out of life. “He just had almost a sad face,” Diaz says.
The teen couldn’t, or didn’t want, to answer Diaz.
When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, “Look, I guess you’re going to have to pay for the bill ’cause you have my money and I can’t pay for this. So if you give me my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.”
The teen “didn’t even think about it” and returned the wallet. “I gave him $20…I figured maybe it would help him.”
Diaz asked for something in return – the teen’s knife – and “he gave it to me.”
Afterward, when Diaz told his mother what happened, she said, “You’re the type of kid that if someone asked you for the time, you’d give them your watch.”
Diaz remarked: “I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”
Well said, Mr. Diaz. Be safe.