Charity in the Form of Chickpeas

Last night my family and I stopped in at our favourite falafel restaurant to grab takeout dinner. It had been a long day but we were in high spirits. And we always enjoy showing our faces at this establishment, because we get a friendly reception without fail. We’ve been coming here for years. We’re treated like long-lost friends. The owners have seen our daughter grow from an tiny infant to a shyly grinning preteen (grinning, because such a fuss is made of her here). More times than I can count, a sweet piece of baklava has been surreptitiously wrapped up for my little girl to find at home. There are always smiles and good wishes. And what’s more, the people who work here seem genuinely caring, not just generating some superficial banter that’s good for business.

In other words, I didn’t really need proof that these are nice people. But if I ever did, I got it last night when a man shuffled in who was rather down on his luck. He stood behind the line of customers, caught the eye of one of the owners and asked for food. Without hesitation, the man behind the counter assured him he’d get something to eat. The staffer then proceeded to put a hot meal together in a takeout container – didn’t seem to mind when the homeless guy indicated he’d really like some rice added to that – and got him set for that night’s dinner.

“You try to do what you can to help,” one of the owners said when I commented on the generosity of the gesture. Of course, there are lots of businesses that give back to the community in one way or another, whether it’s sponsoring a neighbourhood sports team or donating coffee and muffins to a local fundraiser. And while it’s terrific that they do this, you know they’re getting publicity or tax write-offs or some other kickback for their kindness. Fair enough. That’s business. But when a hungry man with no money walks into a restaurant and is quietly fed without fanfare, somehow I find it especially touching.

So if you’re ever in Toronto’s west end looking for a Lebanese eatery with great, fresh food and really just the nicest folks, well, be sure to give me a call. I’ll point you in the right direction.

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