When you perform a small act of kindness you don’t normally give it much thought, like helping an elderly person across the street or giving up her seat on the bus for a pregnant woman. You shouldn’t have to think of what you’re going to do in the moment, you should just be in the habit of helping people in small ways. But sometimes people are too absorbed in their own business to care about anyone else around them.
This just shows that even though they are small, these acts of kindness are something special and can mean a lot to someone. Robert Risdon walked into a Taco Bell one night when it was cold and rainy. He now knows how significant small kindnesses can be.
It was a night like any other and Robert Risdon, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, was on his way back home when he felt his stomach growl, he was hungry. He looked left and right, searching for a place to satisfy his hunger.
It was already getting pretty late, it was around 9:30 pm and he needed food soon. The closest restaurant he could find was a fast food joint, it was a Taco Bell. Little did he know that the decision to go there would affect more than just his hunger.
He parked his car and walked inside to get out of the rain, this is where he saw the late-dinner rush that he had hoped he would miss. People sat in every corner of the restaurant, they all looked down in the dumps, it must have been from the rain.
So because of the poor mood that everyone was in, Robert paid them all little attention, he didn’t want to let their mood affect his. Then he noticed two small figures walk into the restaurant, they were greeted with silence.
He noticed the two figures moved to each patron of the restaurant, he couldn’t make out what they had said but each patron seemed to annoyingly brush them off. He wondered what they were saying.
At this point Robert had sat down and ordered his food, they started getting closer to his table and he wasn’t irritated, he was just curious about what they were going to say to him.
When they got closer to him he finally noticed that they weren’t as suspicious as they originally looked, they were actually two young boys with raincoats soaked through. The tallest of the two came closer and put his hands in his pockets.
It wasn’t far fetched that they came there for dinner. But Robert noticed they never ordered anything, they were at the restaurant for something else, and no patron would have any of it.
Robert didn’t know what had triggered all of the previous patrons that the boys had talked to. But it couldn’t have been something good with the reaction they all had. They were getting very close to his table now.
He glanced over to the cashier who was also watching the boys. He seemed a little nervous, did he know them? Had he seen them before or was this not the first time they’d come in like this? All Robert knew was that soon he’d be asked the same thing that everyone before him rejected.
Looking at the boys properly he could see that they were wet and cold, he felt both sympathy and empathy. “I can’t even count the number of times I was cold, wet, and hungry in the Army,” he recalls.
Robert was stationed in Saudi Arabia where it was a common occurrence to be either tired, wet, hungry, or cold. He could see that the boys were no stranger to any of those things. He was now so curious about what they were going to say.
The difference between the boys and Robert however was that Robert only felt those things while fighting a war in a remote region. These poor boys were just in living in rural Alabama, he couldn’t stand seeing them like this, he had already made up his mind by the time they approached him.
Still, he’d have to wait until they got to his table, they were so close now, he would be next. His heart was pounding in his chest, these boys needed help, he knew that much, but what were they going to ask him?
The boys were now two feet away and staring at them, the one boy opened his mouth and said, “Do you want to buy some candy?” Robert was taken aback, of all the questions he had braced himself for, candy would be the last thing he expected.
Before he answered Robert noticed how skinny they were, and how tired they must have been. He guessed that this wasn’t the first restaurant they had been to tonight in the cold rain.
He felt bad for them, he didn’t know how to respond, but he knew there was only one answer he could give them, “I don’t have any cash.” He felt a bit of shame wash over him.
He could tell that the boys were disheartened and disappointed, but they seemed almost to expect the answer. They turned with their head down and headed for the restaurant door until Robert called after them and said something that made them turn around.
“Can you boys finish off 10 tacos?” Robert asked. The two boys smiled and nodded their heads. Robert got up off of his chair and brought them to the restaurant counter. He told the boys that they could have anything on the menu, free of charge.
After they ordered he talked to them and got to know why they were selling candy in a place like Taco Bell, they explained everything to him and what they said effected the soldier greatly.
The boys told Robert that they had been selling the candy so they could get some money for their local church. They had been walking in the rain because they were motivated and wanted to do something good. Though it seemed that most people angrily brushed them off.
Robert was touched by this, then he asked them an important question, had they eaten anything for dinner? The boys looked at him and just shook their heads.
Robert was touched by their intentions and admired them for working so hard. These were kids who were determined to help others, even if it meant skipping meals and getting wet in the rain.
As a soldier, Robert had been in similar situations himself.
Unknown to Robert, another customer in the restaurant caught on to what was happening.
Jason Gibson knew he was witnessing a rare good deed at work, so he quickly grabbed his phone and started to record the interaction.
The younger boy tried to salute Robert with one hand while clutching his taco in the other. The older boy just kept saying thank you, all while Gibson filmed.
Little did the trio know, Gibson had plans for the video.
It wasn’t long after Gibson posted the video that it went viral. Thousands of people were inspired by Robert’s actions, and by the happy grins on each of the boy’s faces.
Clearly, though, not everyone had the impulse Robert had to help the boys.
According to Robert, his own reason for helping goes back to how he was raised.
“Throughout my childhood I was around people who taught me there’s more to life than taking care of yourself,” Robert said. As a father, he’s raising his kids with the same mentality.
Being kind and helpful is second nature to Robert, so all the praise he’s received about the viral video feels strange, to say the least.
“I’m kinda embarrassed and humbled by the praise,” he said. He believes that such an act should be second nature to everyone…
“It seemed like a very small gesture I could do for two kids that were trying to make some money in the rain on a school night,” he said.
Before leaving, he gave the boys advice that they will probably never forget.
“When you’re older and you’re in a position to help someone out — don’t pass it up,” he told them.
Although Robert was the one helping out this time around, the boys touched Robert’s heart in a way he didn’t expect.
“They inspire me as much as I may have made them feel good by just filling their bellies a little bit,” Robert said.
If you’re wondering how to inspire a soldier like Robert, it may be as simple as showing others respect and gratitude.
Robert and the two boys are living reminders to pay kindness forward.
“I am a believer that we live in the best country in the world with the best people and that acts of kindness happen every day,” Robert said.