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A random act of kindness at a fast food restaurant

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POSTED November 24, 2009 4:46 a.m.

While dining last week at a nearby fast-food restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice a homeless man approaching the self-service fountain drink counter.

He had what appeared to be a used cup from that establishment while circling the counter. He tried to pour himself a drink on the machine but no dice.

I’ve seen it before where these sorts of restaurants have an on and off switch to prevent certain folks from helping themselves to free drinks. But it’s not just the homeless; some patrons order the free iced water only to pour soda from the fountain drink machine.

It’s a known fact that this particular place and the neighboring businesses have problems dealing with the homeless. Not too long ago they removed all of the napkin dispensers, accusing the homeless of taking too much of their stock for personal use.

The policy at this drive-in eatery as posted is standard: “No refills please after leaving the dining area.”

 The stranger had stepped in from the cold and was looking to fill his cup with a refreshment of sort.

Meanwhile, I was curious to see how management would handle the situation as I sat in a booth with my son, Josh, munching on a burger and fries. But before anything could happen, an elderly couple stepped up to help the homeless man by purchasing his drink and a couple of hamburgers to boot.

Turning to my son, I said: “That was a tremendous thing they did (for the homeless man).”

A nod or perhaps just a simple “thank you” from this stranger was the payback for this couple who provided this random act of kindness. I don’t think they were aware that anyone was paying attention to their action.

Yet we noticed.

In fact, this was a random act of kindness that occurred when no one’s looking, so says local educators familiar with Rachel Challenge.

For the past few years and counting, McParland School has involved students in this national program developed as a legacy to Rachel Joy Scott, the first victim of the massacre that took place a decade ago at Columbine High. She kept a dairy but more importantly was remembered by classmates, friends and family for her random acts of kindness.

A paper chain link was developed last year, stretching from the McParland main site to the Annex with each link consisting of acts of kindness by students of nearly 7,000 links.

McParland is continuing the Rachel’s Challenge theme again this year, with school officials hoping to see students exceed last year’s tally.

As we know, this week is time for reflecting and giving thanks.

We can all learn by the random acts of kindness of others and, in turn, perhaps do something special by their example.

The example set forth by this elderly couple who might not have been seeking much in return certainly meant plenty to this bystander.

Call it a trickling effect.

To reach reporter Vince Rembulat, e-mail vrembulat@mantecabulletin.com

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