He looked at the sign he had just put up at his shop and smiled. He had never done this before. He also knew that it would cause quite a stir among his customers. He just wasn’t sure if the reactions would be good or bad. He was also well aware that this would potentially affect his profit, but he knew deep down that he had made the right choice. However, he hadn’t realized that the simple sign on the door of his gas station would turn into a media frenzy.
This new experience totally blew the shop owner away. Frank Hemani has seen a lot of things living in this small town. He learned to deal with certain situations as they came along. He was also a hard worker, and it paid off after he became the owner of a bunch of gas stations. But it hasn’t always been easy. It was actually pretty tough, especially living in Texas. And mainly for someone with his ethnic background.
Frank lived in the northeastern part of Texas his entire life, not too far from Dallas. But there have been times when he’s felt like an outsider because of his tan skin and dark hair. Most people assumed he was Latino, especially since 40% of people in Texas are Hispanic. Frank, whose birth name is Faisal, is of Middle Eastern descent, and a Muslim. And that’s made life very rough sometimes.
For most of his life, Frank lived in Emory, Greenville, and Arlington. But the Asian population in those cities was approximately three percent. No wonder Frank felt like a bit of an outsider! But he understood that being a hard worker was important. And even when he struggled financially or went hungry, he persevered. Now, he’s the proud owner of a number of gas stations in Emory. But he’s still affected by his surroundings.
Frank has witnessed plenty of changes, especially the ones that aren’t always easy to spot. Things weren’t any easier after the recession of 2008. The wealth inequalities, which had been growing for decades, became clearer, and most people lost everything. Fortunately, Frank managed to survive until the economy eventually stabilized. But he knows very well that there are some people who weren’t quite as lucky as he was.
Texas ranked number 10 in the amount of income inequality, according to the 2016 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In fact, the wealthiest five percent of households had incomes 15 times bigger than the bottom 20 percent. But the statistics don’t really matter, because Frank had seen how the economic instability had affected his community. Naturally, it also changed the way he handled his business.
People of all walks of life have strolled into his gas station, and as the owner, he’s done his best to treat everyone with respect and kindness. But like most jobs in the service industry, there are a certain people who can make his job harder, like the homeless asking customers for money, or recent immigrants who can’t speak the language. Frank knew he had to do something, but he wasn’t sure how to proceed.
After watching a video that inspired him, Frank printed a message on a piece of paper, and taped it to the door of a fridge at the Star Mart convenience store. But after a few days, he totally forgot about the sign. Then, a customer snapped a photo and uploaded it on social media. Suddenly, local news stations were reaching out to Frank and demanding that he explain the purpose of the sign.
The sign on the refrigerator door read: “If you don’t have money or a job, you can have a sandwich and a bottle of water for free.” The message was simple, and yet it caught everyone’s attention. But it wasn’t a big deal for Frank. “It’s just a couple of bucks, but somebody will not go to sleep hungry,” he explained to KLTV. But for this store owner, it wasn’t a sign. It was an objective he was happy to achieve.
This wasn’t his idea. Frank had seen a video of someone who did the same thing. After watching it, he was reminded of all those times he was down on his luck, and how much he would have appreciated the kindness of a stranger. “It’s really nice to help the community out because there’s sometimes that maybe I went hungry,” he said. “If they are hungry enough, I will feed them. If they have children, I’ll definitely give them something to eat.” And his staff backed him up 100%.
“We all go through hard times from time to time, so it’s nice to have something good,” explained Andrea Wissman, Frank’s employee. “We have ham and cheese sandwiches and sometimes he throws some of our breakfast tacos in here, something a little different, they can have a choice.” From Frank’s perspective, no one should have to live in poverty or go hungry, particularly children.
“I don’t think the kids in this country or anywhere in the world should have to wait for Christmas to get good stuff,” said Frank. “I think they should get it whenever they deserve.” Handing out a couple of sandwiches a week won’t put an end to the world’s food crisis, but Frank’s making a huge impact. And he hopes that his kindness will become contagious.
Frank has only implemented this act of kindness at one of his convenience stores. But he plans to do this in all of his stores. And he’d like others to do the same. “I can do more positive stories out there,” he said. “Because of me, if more and more people start doing it, I think it’ll be one good thing for the whole world.” And we believe that it might actually catch on…
A Missouri library installed what they called a “Kindness Kupboard.” They modified a newspaper dispenser so that people could get nonperishable food, personal care items, and school supplies. The items are all free of charge. In order to keep the Kupboard stocked, the library relies on donations from the community, organizations, and businesses. But it’s not just folks in the United States who are being generous to the less fortunate.
In Saskatoon, Canada, students at the University of Saskatchewan College of Dentistry created a dental clinic on campus where people with low income could get treatment for free. The clinic is run entirely by the students. Advanced students provide dental treatment, while the newbies offer them support. “We want to help out those patients specifically, those that really avoid the dentist because they can’t afford it, but desperately need dental care,” explained Kristen Kezar, one of the organizers. So, what random act of kindness have you done today?