Police officers have a tough job to do; they never know what to expect, perhaps a murder, arson, fighting, racial incidents—all sorts of events can and do happen—and thieving is such a common occurrence that it must get tedious for them to attend to. But for one thief, the outcome of stealing turned out to be unexpected.
Helen Johnson, from Tarrant, Alabama, is a grandmother on welfare, and she supports her two daughters, two grandchildren, and a niece on her meager monthly check of US$120. It was a disaster when in December 2014 her check didn’t arrive, as it was lost in the mail, and after two days without food, the family was starving. So with all the money she had—just US$1.25, she went to the local store to buy some eggs.
Finding herself short by 50 cents, the desperate woman sneaked five eggs into her pockets and attempted to leave the store.
— 8News WRIC Richmond (@8NEWS) December 11, 2014
But as fate would have it, the eggs broke, and with the yolks seeping through her clothes, she was caught red-handed.
The police had been called. She pleaded with Officer William Stacy to take her money, admitting she had stolen the eggs. Instead, he asked her to wait while he talked to the owner.
When Officer Stacy returned, Johnson assumed she was to be arrested. “She started crying, she got very emotional and was very apologetic,” Stacy said in an interview with Al.com. “She tried to give me the money she had on her, $1.25.”
The police officer had other ideas. He instead bought her a carton of eggs, and also gave her a hug.
“Sometimes the best route is to not arrest,” Stacy said. “I hope she won’t do it again. I pray she doesn’t, and I don’t think she will.”
According to Officer Stacy, Johnson asked him how she could repay him, to which he made her promise not to shoplift ever again.
Witnessing this, a passerby, named Robert “Dollar” Tripp, caught the act of kindness on his iPhone, and after uploading it to his Facebook page with the hashtag “feelgoodstoryoftheday,” it quickly went viral.
However, the officer’s kind deed didn’t end there.
When Johnson opened her front door five days later, she was confronted by Officer Stacy and his colleagues. “I was shook and so scared,” she said. “I thought it was about the eggs. My grand-baby said, ‘Are you going to jail?’ and I said ‘I hoped not.'”
— NPR (@NPR) December 11, 2014
To her surprise, they were there to help her out with two truckloads of food to feed her family through the following months, which included Christmas. “The last time I saw my house this full, I was 12-years-old and staying with my grandmother,” Johnson said.
“I’ve been crying all day,” Johnson said, as she was filled with gratitude towards the compassionate police officer.
“He is my hero,” Johnson added.
Alluding to the truckload of food, the surprised Johnson said, “Oh my gosh!”
“Yes! You’re so sweet. You’re so sweet. This is not food. This is manna from heaven. This is the best thing that has ever happened to us,” she further added.
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) December 13, 2014
After hearing about the grandmother’s situation, people across America began inundating the police station with offers of food, toys, and clothing, said Tarrant Police Chief Dennis Reno. “It’s growing and growing and growing,” Reno said.
“A guy called me from New York and just broke down. He said for two months he’s been angry with police, and he said this has totally changed his mind.”
The police officer’s hug and kindness helped a grandmother’s life to turn around.
“My heart,” Johnson said, “is wide open right now.”
Watch the video: