Breakfast with Your Mugger

Jan 27th 2011

A friend forwarded me the story of Julio Diaz, the other day. It was first reported on an NPR station. Julio Diaz had a daily routine. JulioDiazEvery night, the 31-year-old social worker ended his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he could eat at his favorite diner. But one night a few years ago, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn. He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife.

“He wanted my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, ‘Here you go,'” Diaz said. As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.” The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, “like what’s going on here?” Diaz said. “He asked me, ‘Why are you doing this?'” Diaz replied: “If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you really want to join me, hey, you’re more than welcome. You know, I just felt maybe he really needed help,”

He and the teen went into the diner and sat in a booth. The manager came by, the dishwashers came by, the waiters came by to say hi. Diaz said, “The kid was like, ‘You know everybody here. Do you own this place?'” “No, I just eat here a lot,” Diaz told the teen. The teen couldn’t understand. “But you’re even nice to the dishwasher.” Diaz replied, “Well, haven’t you been taught you should be nice to everybody?” “Yea, but I didn’t think people actually behaved that way,” the teen said. Diaz asked him what he wanted out of life. The teen had almost a sad face and couldn’t answer — or didn’t want to answer.

When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, “Look, I guess you’re going to have to pay for this bill ’cause you have my money and I can’t pay for this. But if you give me my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.” The teen didn’t even think about it and returned the wallet. Diaz gave him $20 figuring maybe it would help him, but then he asked for something in return — the teen’s knife — and it was given. Afterward, when Diaz told his mother what happened, she said, “You’re the type of kid that if someone asked you for the time, you gave them your watch.” Diaz replied, “I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”

Sometimes we read of good deeds and we deem them heroic deeds reserved only for a radical few. Uncommon, not normal. What if for followers of Jesus, heroic deeds are the new normal?