She tried to avoid him but she couldn’t. She looked up to see a young man with bright eyes. He was standing over her with the position of his head set against a ceiling light. It gave the illusion of a halo.
Mesmerized, she caught her breath. But was he who she thought he was?
80-year-old Eleanor Baker walked into Brad’s Bar-B-Que in Oxford, Alabama. She was alone. Something she was still struggling to get used to since the recent passing of her husband.
She had planned to sit in her quiet sadness as she tried to enjoy the all-you-can-eat evening special. But that wasn’t what was about to happen.
He and his two friends had spotted her from outside the restaurant and followed her inside. Baker was blissfully unaware until it was too late.
Finding a table to call her own for the next hour or so, she placed her cardigan and bag down on the seat and went over to the counter to fill her plate. She had a habit of leaving her things around.
As she filled her plate with all her favorite foods, she made sure to pick her late husband’s favorite foods too. After a lifetime together, she was clinging to anything that made her feel close to him.
She was taking her time, all the while he was coming up with a plan to change the course of her day.
He sat down at a table close to Baker’s with his friends and immediately took note of her unguarded items. They looked around to check if anyone was with her. No one.
Keeping an eye on her bag, the men kept to their seat until Baker returned and he couldn’t sit still anymore. He needed to tell her. Tell her what?
Baker had returned to her seat with her belongings intact. She gave a faint smile at herself for not realizing that she had left her stuff there. Why does she always do that nowadays?
Her smile soon faded as she realized that it was because of her husband. He would have always minded her stuff as she ordered. It was a habit she would have to change, and fast.
Baker was staring at the empty seat opposite her when she noticed him looking at her. She didn’t think much of it at first, but when he got up and started walking towards her, that quickly changed.
Baker avoided eye contact as he made his way to her. She had no idea what this stranger wanted, but he was compelled.
Baker looked up to see a young man with bright eyes ask her for a seat. He was standing slightly bent with the position of his head set against a ceiling light. It gave the illusion of a halo.
She quietly gasped as she soaked up his image. His voice was gentle and polite. It reminded her of someone, someone she couldn’t quite place yet.
She pushed her drink aside to give him room to sit down. Looking into his eyes, she saw something that can only be described as an innate wisdom that looked far beyond his years.
But it was more than that. She felt like she knew him, like he had known him all her life. He got up, and told her he’d be right back after he got some food. She watched his walk. It looked strangely familiar.
He returned with a plate full of food. That’s when it clicked. Her eyes began to tear as they ate. And then he asked about her husband.
She told him their story and how she was now left a widow. And although she had a big family, they all lived far away so she was alone most of the time. What happened next can only be explained by the divine.
“It was a God thing,” she said, “I think God sent me there”. With his unusually clear and wise eyes, he told her not to worry about her husband. He told her he was missing her and waiting for her but happy so she should be too.
She crumbled, it was as if he was sent from the heavens. What was it before this? Why did he feel so familiar? Who was he?
The young man, Jamario Howard, reminded Baker of her late husband. The food he ordered was all his favorites. The way he spoke, the way he walked, his friendly and caring demeanor as he asked her for a seat.
It was as if her husband or God was speaking through him to tell her it will be alright. But what was Howard’s story?
Howard was with his friends, a group of young men in their 20’s, when he noticed Baker sitting alone. His heart ached at the lonely sight and he decided to do something about it.
“He just came up, and he said ‘I saw you sitting over here alone’ and he said ‘do you mind having some company?'” Baker said.
Baker was delighted to have his company and even more so when his friends joined. She hadn’t connected with someone like that since her husband passed away.
Baker still considers him her savior during a crucial time of need. He gave her a reason to smile as well as a little bit of closure. Howard and his friends had a lot to say about her too. He shared the story on Facebook, where it spread like wildfire.
“So tonight JaMychol Baker, Tae Knight, and myself went out to eat at this place called Brads in Oxford, and after us sitting there a while waiting on our food I noticed an elderly woman sitting alone,” Howard wrote on the Facebook post.
“My exact thoughts was: “dang I’d hate to have to eat alone.””
“She said yes and we talked for a minute and after a while of talking she told me she lost her husband and that tomorrow would have been their 60th anniversary,” Howard’s post continued.
“I instantly gave my condolences and asked her to come eat with us, which she was excited to do.”
“The point in this is always be kind and be nice to people. You never know what they are going through,” Howard continued.
“This woman changed my outlook on life and how I look at other people. Everyone has a story so do not judge! And people I can’t stress this enough. GO SEE YOUR MOM AND YOUR GRANDPARENTS. They miss you!!”
Later, Howard said that dining with Baker has changed how he views strangers. And his viral post touched the hearts of thousands of people online.
The Facebook post has been shared more than 58,000 times and has more than 20,000 comments, many of which praise the young men.
“May God bless you three,” one user wrote. “Actually, may God bless all 4 of you. Especially in a country (United States) that has become twisted, selfish, anti-social, and where people no longer even communicate anymore unless it’s business-related. America doesn’t raise people like it used to.”
And another: “What an awesome thing to do young man. I’m sure you and your friends just made her day and her meal enjoyable. Thank you for being such a thoughtful person. You were raised right.”
In an interview with NBC News, Howard said that Baker had spoken about her grandchildren, and had also spoken about the volunteer work she does at a local hospital.
Howard also mentioned that he has seen Baker after their dinner together. And the two of them even plan to keep in touch. But it wasn’t long before the local media began to hound Howard down, and they all had one question for him.
When asked how Baker had reacted when he approached her, Howard said: “She kind of looked at me like, why are you right here? And so I introduced myself, she introduced herself.”
Howard recalled: “And we just kind of sat there, talking, really not about much, about every little thing. And then she started talking about her husband.” But how does Howard feel about all the attention?
“It’s been a bit overwhelming at times, thousands have been in touch, but I’ve enjoyed meeting lots of people,” he said. “I’m a people person, I’d talk to a wall!”
“I didn’t post it to go viral, I posted it to let people know it’s OK to be kind to other people,” said Howard.
When asked why he had decided to continue the friendship with Baker, Howard replied: “I personally thought, like, you know, it’s all right to be kind to people.”
“…’cause this woman, she told me that the next day would’ve been their 60th anniversary. So I figured, you know, maybe it was a good thing, that we, maybe she needed somebody right now,” Howard said.
We surely need more people like Howard and his friends in the world. People tend to become so engrossed in their own lives that it’s easy to forget that there are people in need all around us.
Acts of kindness such as Howard’s are rare. But, if you think about it, making a stranger’s day a little brighter makes you feel good, too — it’s a win-win situation.
“When you make that kind of connection with somebody, it’s hard to let it go,” said one of Howard’s friends. They continue to meet up with Baker.
Howard explains why, “I’m not rich, I’m not famous, and I’m not very smart either, so I can’t be president. But we can show the world it’s alright to be kind. Then, before long, maybe the world will be a much better place.”