When the disheveled tramp shuffled through the door of her cafe looking for a handout, it was the last thing that proprietor Cesia Abigail Baires needed. After all, it was the end of a long day and she was dog-tired from trying to keep the struggling business afloat.
And Baires told the man, whose name was Marcus, that she didn’t have any cash to spare for herself. In fact, she said, she was working all hours just to keep Abi’s Cafe – her El Salvadorean restaurant in Minneapolis, Minnesota – alive.
As Baires explained in a March 2016 interview with the New York Daily News, “I’ve seen him going up and down on Main Street before like a lot of other homeless people. He came in asking for money. I told him nothing is given for free here. Even my family pays when they come in here!”
And Baires’ response to him was equally honest. “I was really, really tired. I told him I don’t have the money.” Nevertheless, she also recounted, “I felt a connection with him.” As a result, then, she decided to offer him a deal.
Marcus, meanwhile, was not averse to any kind of offer, not least because he had been living rough since he was just 16. And with no roof over his head, and a string of felonies for theft and the like not helping his employment prospects, he was willing to consider almost anything Baires put to him.
What Baires offered, though, may have shocked Marcus. Instead of turning him away empty-handed, in fact, she decided instead to turn him into an employee. Firstly, though, she got tough by asking him, “Why don’t you have a job? You know nothing is given to me for free, right?”
Shamefaced, Marcus turned away and replied, “Well, I have a lot of felonies and no one wants to hire me for that. So, now I had to turn myself to the streets and get money the only way I know – stealing and asking for money.”
Marcus’ confession, however, didn’t put Baires off. Instead, she looked him in the eye and declared, “You want a job? Then I have one for you!” Then she handed him a washing-up apron. And he accepted her challenge – and the apron – while responding, “I will do anything for food.”
The cafe owner employed him for two hours on that first occasion, as that was all she could afford to pay him. She also gave him a sandwich to eat but was stunned when he only ate half of it and wrapped the other half in foil.
Later, however, she saw him take the uneaten half out into the street and give it to a homeless woman. And upon witnessing that touching gesture, Baires knew that her initial favorable judgement of Marcus had been right on the money. The following day, moreover, he came back to work again.
As Baires told CBS News in 2016, “A lot of people are saying I’ve been a blessing for him. But, at that point, I was the one who needed a blessing. Some restaurants wouldn’t even let you use their restrooms. I don’t judge someone on how they look – go use it. I do not treat [homeless people] any different.”
So from that day forward, Marcus turned up daily and on time to do his two hours of chores for Baires and take the load off her shoulders. In return, he earned a useful wage.
Meanwhile, Baires herself has a blunt message for local businesses that don’t help people who are down on their luck – they are part of the problem. And not only did the cafe owner assist one man by giving him a job, but she’s also setting him up for the future. Specifically, Baires and Marcus agreed to put 10 percent of his wages into a fund for him so that he could begin to build up some savings.
As for why she decided to aid the homeless man, Baires explained to CBS News, “Just like Marcus, I had my help. I had plenty of people to help make it to where I am today. They believed I could do it. People need to have someone believe in them. It’s going to be hard for him to let go of whatever addiction he has. I want to help [him], but [he] needs to want to help [himself].”
She added, “[Marcus] is just great. A really great guy. I was struggling the day that he came, with my business not doing well. I was the one ready to give up on my goals. He has been a blessing for me and my business.”
And the good news for Baires was that her kindness to the struggling homeless man came rebounding back upon her and her cafe. In part, this was because Marcus would use part of his wages to buy his food in there. More noticeably, though, her big-hearted actions earned her and her business a lot of positive attention.
Indeed, when Baires decided to take to Facebook to share the news of her offbeat hiring, her posts went right around the world, bringing in massive publicity for her as they were shared more than 100,000 times. They also drew thousands of comments from interested and admiring readers.
This spate of attention, then, may have been just the thing to help Baires aid Marcus even further. To do it, she started a GoFundMe page to help the man get himself on the financial ladder again. And with many digging deep into their pockets, this new gesture helped raise more than $8,000 towards his revival fund.
As Baires explained on the GoFundMe page, “His goal is to get off of the streets and get a place. I don’t know how many people have turned their back on him. To see him smile is amazing.”
Since the story went viral, meanwhile, Baires has been inundated with messages from well-wishers around the globe. And as for Marcus’ fate, Baires gave everyone an update in a post made on the cafe’s Facebook page in December 2016. She wrote, “Marcus is no longer working for me as he found something more fitting for him, but he still comes around to talk or help me out as he is very thankful for the chance that was given.” What’s more, she ended the message with some inspiring words of wisdom. “Go and give someone a much needed chance today… you could change a life too!”