The day started normally for him and his wife. It was late afternoon, and they were checking inventory in their deli.
The man spotted something that made his brows furrow. Just outside the building, a black sedan was parked. He didn’t think much of it at first, but, on a closer look, he found himself jumping over the counter.
When Ali Farouk decided to buy a local deli in a small town in Cleveland, he only sought to provide for his family while also keeping the almost five-decade-old restaurant alive.
He’d recently moved into the town with his wife and two sons and wanted to fit in as fast as possible. But what he would witness in his new neighborhood would drive him to extremes he never thought possible.
Ali was like most immigrants looking to make the most of their time in a new country. After enduring troubling times in his country of origin and managing to get his family to the safety of American soil, he only wanted to start life afresh.
He and his wife lived in New York for a few years before deciding to relocate to Cleveland for a quieter environment where they could raise their family. They had no idea what awaited them there.
Ali had saved up enough money to start a business. He’d spent a few months scoping out the perfect occupation to venture into and soon ran into a small deli that needed a new owner.
Of course, Ali purchased the establishment without wasting any time. It blended well with his lifestyle, given that he’d been a cook back in New York, amassing knowledge in the culinary arts. He was confident he was where he was always meant to be. He was wrong.
For Ali and his family, their new small town was everything they ever wanted in a place to call home. The weather was great, and the people were welcoming.
Before they knew it, their family had already amalgamated with the localities. But instead of everything running smoothly, things began taking a turn for the worst. It wouldn’t be long until Ali did the unthinkable.
For most business owners, their establishments are usually their primary source of income. It is no surprise that they would give their all to shield them from danger.
The problems for Ali began as soon as the country, like many other nations worldwide, declared lockdown. The indirect consequence of such a necessary global decision would change everything his family knew.
“Most of our neighbors, friends, business associates, and acquaintances needed to work from home to feed their loved ones and pay the bills,” reported Ali as he recalled the start of the problem. “Most of them lost their jobs as these positions couldn’t support the work from home model.”
Many families began struggling through the lockdown period, with some going for days without adequate food. Although the lockdown would eventually be lifted, the issues it had brought would linger.
The country had lifted most of the strict rules it had placed for the people’s safety. But Ali’s neighborhood was having problems recovering.
“I know several people who are still unemployed,” said Ali. The poverty rate in his town had suddenly shot up, leading to one of the most unfortunate things he had ever seen.
The day the event took place was as normal as any other for Ali and his wife. It was late afternoon, and they were checking inventory in their deli.
Ali spotted something that made his brows furrow. Just outside the building, a black sedan was parked. He didn’t think much of it at first but, on a closer look, found himself jumping over the counter.
The car had been parked outside the deli for almost twenty minutes before the driver rolled down his window. That’s when Ali saw it.
Two kids were crying in the back of the car, a rugged-looking man desperately trying to soothe them. Keen to know what was happening, Ali hastened out of the deli. The kids were in trouble.
Ali found the man trying to calm the kids. He expected some hostility out of him but was shocked to hear how gentle his voice was. He was telling the kids that he didn’t have enough money to buy them breakfast or lunch.
But that wasn’t the saddest part. The man was looking to buy a few supplies for the house and told the kids they would eat back home. One of the children said something that made Ali stop in his tracks.
“The child said they hadn’t eaten since the previous night and was begging his dad to bring them a slice of peach cobbler pie,” said Ali. That’s when he knew he had to step in.
Approaching the man, Ali introduced himself and immediately offered to help. He offered to cook a special meal for the man and his kids, ensuring that he’d make enough to eat at the deli and carry home. He had no idea what he’d started.
Although the man initially hesitated, he accepted Ali’s offer, eating at the deli and taking the rest of the food home. But a day later, a different customer came into the store, buying food but unable to fully pay for it.
The trend continued for about two weeks, with different customers coming in for small food portions because they were low on cash. Ali was fed up with the state of things.
When Ali moved from America, he wanted to find a place he could call home, somewhere free of suffering. He didn’t want to exist in a place riddled with issues. But deep down, he felt like he could make a positive difference.
He’d already helped one of the customers, and although he knew that wasn’t enough, he hoped it helped. That’s when a thought hit him: what if he could do more?
With the help of his wife, Ali put up a blunt sign that read, “If you don’t have money or a job, you can have a sandwich and a water bottle for free.” Perhaps such a deed would help alleviate the stress and suffering in his neighborhood.
When asked about what drove him to such a noble deed, he said, “My family and I have been blessed beyond measure. There are people out there who are still suffering. I hope this can show them they have someone to count on.” Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events, places, or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.