When Julio Diaz stepped off the New York City subway platform after work one night, he was simply planning to walk over to his favorite local diner for a meal. But when a teenage boy approached him with a knife in his hand, Diaz, a 31-year-old social worker, knew the evening was about to take a more dramatic turn.
The young man demanded Diaz’s wallet, and Diaz passed it over without objection. But just as his mugger turned to walk away, Diaz called after him:
“Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something.”
The mugger turned around, surprised.
“If you’re going to be out on the streets for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”
The teenager looked at Diaz in disbelief and asked why he would do such a thing. Diaz replied,
“!f you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money.”
He then told the young man that he’d just been heading out for dinner and that he would be happy for some company.
“You know, I just felt maybe he really needs help,” Diaz told NPR’s StoryCorps.
The young mugger decided to take Diaz up on his offer, and they headed into Diaz’s favorite local diner together. As they were sitting at the table, the manager, the dishwashers, and the waiters all stopped over to say hello to Diaz, and the young man was really surprised at his popularity.
“You’re even nice to the dishwasher,” he exclaimed.
“Haven’t you been taught that you should be nice to everybody?” Diaz asked him.
“Yea, but I didn’t think people actually behaved that way,” the teenager replied.
Thanks to Diaz, he was beginning to see that kindness wasn’t such a strange phenomenon, after all. When the bill came, Diaz told the teen that the teen would have to get the check. After all, he still had Diaz’s wallet.
The teenager slid the wallet back across the table without a moment’s thought, and Diaz treated him to dinner. Diaz then gave the would-be mugger $20. He figured maybe it’ll help him. But, Diaz asked for something in return, the teen’s knife. And he gave it to him.
“I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right,” Diaz said.
“It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”
~ The author is Michael Garofalo who wrote the story for the Morning Edition of National Public Radio. You can hear the interview between the author and Julio Diaz by clicking here ~