A cafe owner named Henry decided to do a little experiment to see who his true friends were. In the end, he was surprised to find out that everyone he knew ignored him except for a poor man who offered him help.
Henry Luz was a wealthy owner of a crowd-favorite Spanish cafe. It was a family business that he put up in his neighborhood.
The cafe made sure to pay homage to his Spanish heritage, as his father was an immigrant who moved to the US decades back to live the “American Dream.” The cafe featured authentic Spanish dishes and drinks, and it was a favorite dining spot that both families and friends alike would visit.
Henry would always manage the cafe during the evenings, as it was their busiest time of the day. He would have wine for himself as he served and chatted with customers. Sometimes, when he had too much to drink, he became extra generous.
He would treat the visitors to free meals, and at some point, they would start to use him because of it. Meanwhile, Henry simply thought they were all his friends and that they loved being around him.
One day, Henry realized that the restaurant was not earning as much as it used to. Consulting with his wife, Margarite, she said: “Well, what do you expect? You keep giving away free food and free drinks like there’s no tomorrow.”
“I’m just treating my friends. Besides, they’re already loyal customers,” he replied. Margarite shook her head.
“Stop being naive, mi amor. They are using you and milking our business. Stop thinking they’re all your friends,” Margarite continued to argue. However, Henry just wouldn’t believe her.
“That’s nonsense. My friends are good and kind. They will help anyone who needs help,” he said, defending them.
How sure are you of that? You haven’t seen them helping anyone, and you know it,” Margarite asked.
At that, Henry realized that his wife actually made sense. He thought about it long and hard and decided to conduct an experiment. Near his cafe, he dressed up as a poor homeless man. He laid down on the ground and covered his face, pretending to sleep. He also placed an empty cup in front of him.
That evening, no one tried to approach him. In fact, as the cafe’s patrons started coming, Henry could hear comments like “Since when did this cafe allow homeless people to sit nearby? It ruins the ambiance.”
Testing to see if anyone cared, Henry frequently coughed loudly to make it seem like he was ill. Among the visitors, he recognized the voices of many of his so-called friends talking badly about the homeless man he was pretending to be.
Where is Henry anyway? He disappears one day and suddenly, homeless people start showing up at his cafe. He clearly hasn’t done his job well today,” one of them said. At that, Henry’s stomach started to twist. You were right, Margarite. These people don’t care about me.
Henry wanted so badly to show them his real identity, but he decided to play along the entire night to see what else they would say about him. When he shifted his position a little bit to face the wall, one of the cafe patrons thought he was leaving and said:
“Hey, bum! Don’t go! You’ll never know, Henry might arrive soon and he will give you food and clothes. Just tell him, he’s a cool guy and he’ll be your friend and give you what you need. That moron is so gullible that if you ask hard enough, he might as well just give you this cafe.” When the man said that, everyone at his table erupted in laughter.
Meanwhile, Henry was trying his hardest not to sit up and show them that he was in disguise. He could feel his stomach twisting and his face heating up in both anger and embarrassment for believing that these people were his friends.
Henry sat up and looked away. He covered his face with a blanket to wipe away his tears. He couldn’t help but cry hearing the cafe patrons talk badly about him after everything he’d done for them.
After a while, he saw a pair of old dirty boots in front of him. The man then handed him a sandwich. “Eat, and when you’re done, you should get up from there. You will freeze from the cold asphalt. We can go to the abandoned house where I stay. You can warm up there.”
Henry looked up and saw a homeless man staring down at him. He shook his head. “I can’t take this. This is all the food you have. It’s fine, thank you.”
“No, I’ve eaten today. You probably haven’t. These drunken freaks can’t even spare a couple of change while they eat expensive meals. Come, follow me,” he said. At that, Henry got up and followed the man. He was intrigued at where this house was and wanted to see what it was truly like living as a homeless man.
After walking a short while, they ended up in a small shack covered in vines. The man had a battery-operated emergency lamp hung on the wall, which he opened once they entered.
How did you end up living here?” Henry asked, surprised. There was barely anything in the house save for an old sofa, a cushion on the floor, and a fireplace with kitchen sets scattered around it.
The man proceeded to light a fire, and the two of them sat in front of it. “Well,” he started. “I used to work as a cafe administrator until my wife and child kicked me out of the house because they wanted more from life. I didn’t graduate college, but despite that, I was earning pretty well at the cafe. It’s just that they always wanted more,” the man explained.
“My wife ended up filing for divorce and she found a new man. She milked me of my savings, telling the court that I hardly provided for them. She demanded I give her and my child a large sum of money. It led me to a downward spiral and I ended up spending what was left on alcohol. I lost my job, and I ended up on the streets.”
“I’m sorry this happened to you,” he said. Henry couldn’t help but feel bad for the man. But he remembered that he had a background in cafe management, so he decided to surprise him with a job.
However, before he could say anything else, the man stood up. “Feel free to stay here with me if you don’t have anywhere to stay. I don’t mind. I’ll go scout for some leftovers from nearby restaurants. Once I get some, I’ll come back and share them with you. By the way, my name is Elliot,” he said, smiling before leaving.
Henry waited inside the abandoned house and decided to show Elliot his true identity when he returned. He took out his normal clothes from the small rugged backpack he had with him and got dressed.
When Elliot came back, he was surprised to see Henry completely transformed. Before he could say anything, Henry said: “Because of you, I came to understand what it means to be truly kind. You showed me what the world can be, and what people can be.”
“I decided to pose as a homeless man to see whether the customers at the cafe I owned would care. You were the only one who offered to help me. The world needs more people like you. That’s why I would love to help you start anew by offering you a job at my cafe,” he said.
Elliot was stunned. He simply wanted to help a fellow homeless man out, as he knew how it felt to struggle with having nothing. He never imagined that a random encounter would lead him to an opportunity to start anew.
Elliot ended up becoming Henry’s night shift manager which eventually allowed him to rent a comfortable room and eat and sleep comfortably.
Meanwhile, ever since finding out about his customers’ betrayal, Henry no longer offered free meals and drinks to patrons, but instead, he started donating to homeless shelters every week as a way of giving back.
What can we learn from this story?
Not everyone you meet is your friend. While Henry treated everyone around him as his friend, they ended up showing their true colors behind his back.
Not having much in life doesn’t have to stop you from being kind. Despite Elliot not having any money, he still tried to help Henry when he needed it the most.
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