When she saw something distasteful in the town, she couldn’t help but speak up. So when staff laughed at her complaint about the man asleep in the booth at her local McDonald’s restaurant, she saw red.
Surely a law-abiding citizen should be able to eat a Big Mac in peace, she thought. But this time, she really should have kept her incessant complaining to herself.
Luann Cofield was born and raised in Fayetteville, Georgia, but she was growing increasingly disillusioned with her hometown. Everywhere she looked, she saw constant reminders of what she perceived as the decay and decline of the town she once loved.
As she walked to get her lunch, every little thing she saw people doing in the street bugged her. Maybe she was just having a bad day, she thought. But her bad day was about to get much worse.
Luann stopped for lunch at the local McDonald’s. Maybe if she got her blood sugar back up, her bad mood would start to improve. She ordered a Big Mac, soda, and side of fries to take the edge off.
But as she took her first bite of the hamburger, she saw something out of the corner of her eye that had her slamming her food down on the tray and marching up to speak to the manager.
Luann had seen what at first looked like old rags strewn out across the booth’s bench, which she decided was already enough to put her off her lunch. When she looked closer, she saw what the table was obscuring.
The man was stretched out across the full length of the booth, lying absolutely still. Was he homeless? Drunk? A junkie? Luann needed answers.
The cashier froze when he saw Luann storming indignantly up to the counter, “I want to talk to the manager!” she screeched. The look of thunder on her face told him she meant business, so he promptly called his boss over.
When the manager arrived, Luann complained loudly that there was someone sleeping in the booth where she had been trying to enjoy her lunch. But his response sent her into a fury that would eventually get the whole world’s attention.
The manager looked over to where Luann was pointing and giggled. “Oh yeah, we know,” he said. Luann was outraged. Not only was he not taking her complaint seriously, but he had just laughed in her face!
Well, she would show them, she thought angrily. She would show everyone! Luann grabbed her phone and snapped the soon to be infamous photo that would eventually force her to delete her Facebook account.
Without a second thought, Luann uploaded the photo of the sleeping man to a closed Facebook group. She had to tell the world how she had been treated. Had the world gone completely mad?
She sat back and waited for all the likes and comments of support for her terrible ordeal from other decent folk in her community. But that’s not what happened at all.
“Just another reason for me to leave Fayetteville!” Luann’s post read. “I was in the McDonald’s in the middle of town and I saw this guy sleeping in the booth!”
“Their response was ‘Oh yeah, we know, hee hee. It’s OK.’ And I said, ‘Not really, but whatever.’” Then, the first comment rolled in. And another. Then hundreds.
Luann’s rant went viral fast. But to her dismay, she was quickly informed by locals that she was way out of line.
Soon, thousands of people had seen her rash post. Most of them were angry with her and soon decided to take matters into their own hands. So what was really going on with the sleeping man?
Commenters immediately recognized the man as 21-year-old Simon Childs, and they were quick to point out that he’d suffered a streak of bad luck in recent months.
Simon actually worked as a fry cook at the McDonald’s, which was why the staff were aware that he was there. And there was a tragic backstory to the poor man’s situation.
It turned out that Simon was catching some sleep before his next shift started. The new father was pulling extra shifts to make the cash he needed to feed his four-month-old son.
On top of that, Simon was homeless. He just couldn’t make his meager paycheck stretch far enough to put a roof over his head. Luann had shared a photo of Simon at his lowest, and he was devastated when he found out.
“It hurt me to see my picture up there,” he said in an interview. With everything he was dealing with – including the recent loss of his mother – the last thing Simon needed was a stranger shaming him online.
However, after local news got hold of the story, both Simon and Luann were pushed into the limelight. The poor man’s public humiliation wasn’t over.
By this point, Luann had caught so much heat online that she couldn’t take it anymore. She deleted her Facebook account and tried to put it out of her mind.
Meanwhile, Simon continued to put in the hours at work. The morning after the post went viral, he arrived at the restaurant to find an unexpected sight.
“I didn’t think the community would even care enough about me to do that, but they care,” Simon said tearfully when he found the piles of diapers, formula, and other baby supplies stacked on the restaurant floor.
More support and offers of help came flooding in. Then, a couple of local chefs decided to step up to the plate… and things just snowballed from there.
Theo and Xavier Thomas own the Fayetteville restaurant Fusion Chefs Eatery. When they caught wind of Simon’s plight, they knew they needed to help in any way they could.
So they got in contact with him and explained that he had free access to their car so he could get to job interviews. And they weren’t the only ones giving Simon a leg up to a better life.
A barber soon stepped in and gave Simon a fresh new haircut to improve his chances of finding a better job.
“Simon’s story just touched our hearts,” Xavier explained. This was all great news for Simon, who soon had some more lucrative job opportunities lined up, but the struggling father still didn’t have a place to stay.
More locals donated toward hotel stays so that Simon and his child would have a safe place to sleep at night. Someone even went a step further and set up a GoFundMe account for him.
It wasn’t long before donations began to pour in. Simon was truly grateful for the chances he’d been given and has even vowed to pay it forward to help other people in his situation.
“Everything I get, I want to work for it,” said the grateful young man. “I actually want to use everything I’m getting from this and help other homeless people.”
But what about Luann, the disgruntled woman whose negative post had started the whole chain of positive events in Simon’s life? How does Simon feel about her now?
Luann received aggressive backlash for her spiteful Facebook post. Thankfully, the outcome of her actions resulted in some positive changes in Simon’s life, even though her initial intentions were mean-spirited.
But it would take more than just deleting her Facebook account to make amends for humiliating him. Eventually, Luann agreed to meet Simon in person.
“I didn’t want to hurt him,” she said in an interview outside the very McDonald’s where it had all started.
When Luann found out about Simon’s situation, she felt terrible. When she saw him again, she rushed to give him a hug. “I’m sorry. Because, you know, that horrified me. That breaks my heart for you,” she told him. But can Simon forgive her?
“I’m not homeless, not now, thanks to Luann,” he said, happily. “I’m no longer sleeping in a McDonald’s, so that’s good. I feel great.”
Then, he turned to Luann and said, “I do want to thank you. Not for the post per se, but for helping me pick my life up off the ground.” So has Luann learned her lesson?
When asked if she would act the same way again if she ever found herself in a similar situation, she replied, “Absolutely not. And I would handle it differently. Maybe talk to somebody and see what the situation is.”
As for Simon’s GoFundMe campaign, it has raised a whopping $10,000 and is still going strong. But Simon has no intention of taking advantage of the community’s generosity…
“I actually want to use everything I’m getting from this and help other homeless people,” he admitted during an interview with WSB-TV News. And, just a few weeks after his story went viral, the job offers started pouring in.
The last we heard, Simon accepted a new job in construction. The latest update on Simon’s GoFundMe page said: “Simon meets his new work team! Dressed for comfortable travel as they head out of town to the job site! Safe travels and good luck on your new adventure!” But many netizens were still outraged.
“Luann Cofield was disgusted enough to expose Simon Childs on Facebook without his knowledge,” one man wrote, “…without even bothering to ask the McDonald’s staff why they were allowing him to sleep there.”
“Sad that African American males can’t even rest between shifts at their place of employment at #McDonalds.If it was reversed, people would be outraged.”
Aside from a few angry users, the response online to Simon’s story has been mostly positive, with people around the world congratulating him on his new job and new life.
“Great story about how when the intent to shame goes the polar opposite and in a POSITIVE way!” one man wrote. Another woman added: “What she meant for evil, God meant for good. God bless you #SimonChilds and your baby!”