It was an act of desperation that caused 47-year-old Helen Johnson to shove five eggs in her pocket. Her family had already gone for two days without food on Saturday when she went to Dollar General in Tarrant, Ala. She had $1.25 but ended up being short 50 cents plus tax, AL.com reports.
So she took the eggs, but they broke in her jacket pocket, and she was caught.
"You know what they say about karma, right? Of course when I put them in my jacket pocket, they broke,'' Johnson said. "I'm not a good thief at all."
When a store worker confronted her, she admitted to the theft and learned that the police were already on the way. Johnson expected to be carted off in handcuffs, but unbeknownst to her, the responding police officer, William Stacy, had already spoken to the store officials, and Dollar General said that it would not press charges.
What happened next truly shocked Johnson: Officer Stacy went and bought the eggs for her.
"She started crying; she got very emotional and was very apologetic,'' Stacy said. "She tried to give me the money she had on her, $1.25."
He did, however, extract compensation—in the form of making Johnson promise not to shoplift again.
"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."
"I was like, 'Oh my God, thank you Jesus for this man,' '' Johnson said. "He is my hero.
"I was just getting eggs, and now that's saved my life,'' she told the news site. "I've never been more grateful in my life. I'm so overwhelmed with the goodness of these people."
According to AL.com, Johnson has her two daughters; a niece; and two grandchildren, ages 1 and 3, living with her. The mother of the children usually gets a welfare check, about $120 per month, but it was lost in the mail, the news site notes. Johnson receives disability checks, but one wasn’t due to come in until this week, rendering her desperate.
Stacy said that his act of kindness came from a place of empathy and understanding. He told AL.com that he remembered times in his childhood when his mother struggled to feed him and his sister. He had also been called to Johnson's house once before and seen the family's living conditions firsthand.
"The story she told me Saturday matched up with what I had seen when I was there,'' he said. "I felt like it was the right thing to do. I didn't want to pass judgment on her."
But the feel-good story doesn't stop there.
Johnson went home and fed her family with the dozen eggs and the loaf of bread they already had. According to AL.com, it was the first thing they had eaten since Thursday. On Tuesday they were down to the last slice of bread. That same day, Tarrant police knocked on her door and took Johnson back to police headquarters, where they signed her up for a toy drive. The police force is also now helping to coordinate offers for food and clothing, AL.com reports.
"I'm so proud of Dollar General for not pressing charges. I'm so proud of Sgt. Rice and Officer Stacy; I wish there was more like him,'' Johnson. "I don't know if he's an angel or God-sent, but he was there for me and I appreciate every minute of it."
Read more at AL.com.