StoryCorps
9:07 am
Fri December 2, 2011

A Victim Treats His Mugger Right

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2008 11:01 pm

Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner.

But one night last month, 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 wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, 'Here you go,'" Diaz says.

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 says. "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 needs help," Diaz says.

Diaz says he and the teen went into the diner and sat in a booth.

"The manager comes by, the dishwashers come by, the waiters come by to say hi," Diaz says. "The kid was like, 'You know everybody here. Do you own this place?'"

"No, I just eat here a lot," Diaz says he told the teen. "He says, '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. "He just had almost a sad face," Diaz says.

The teen couldn't answer Diaz — or he didn't want to.

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. So 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 says. "I gave him $20 ... I figure maybe it'll help him. I don't know."

Diaz says he asked for something in return — the teen's knife — "and he gave it to me."

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."

"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."

Produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And on this Friday morning, it's time once again for StoryCorps, the project that records Americans talking about their lives. Today we hear the story of 31-year-old Julio Diaz. He's a social worker from the Bronx in New York City and he has a daily routine. Every night he ends his hour long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early just so he can eat at his favorite diner. But one night last month as Mr. Diaz stepped off the train and onto a nearly empty platform his evening took an unexpected turn.

Mr. JULIO DIAZ (Social Worker): So I get off the train and I'm walking towards the stairs and this young teenager pulls out a knife. He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him here you go.

He starts to leave and as he's walking away I'm like, hey, wait a minute, you forgot something. If you're gonna be robbing people for the rest of the night you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.

So, you know, he's looking at me like, what's going on here, you know. And he asked me, well, why are you doing this? And I'm like, well, I don't know, man, 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 go get dinner and if you really want to join me, hey, you're more than welcome. But I'm like, look, you can follow me if you want. You know, I just felt like maybe he really needs help.

So, you know, we go into the diner where I normally eat. We sit down in a booth and the manager comes by, the dishwashers come by, the waiters come by to say hi, you know. So the kid is like, man, you know everybody here. Do you own this place? I'm like, no, I just eat here a lot. He said, but you're even nice to the dishwasher.

I'm like, well, haven't you been taught you should be nice to everybody. So he's like, yeah, but I didn't think people actually behaved that way. So I just asked him, I'm like, you know, what is it that you want out of life? He just had almost a sad face. Either he couldn't answer me or he didn't want to.

The bill came and I looked at him and I'm like, look, I guess you're gonna have to pay for this bill 'cause you have my money and I can't pay for this, so if you give me my wallet back, I'll gladly treat you. He didn't even think about it. He's like, yeah, okay, here you go.

So I got my wallet back. And I gave, you know, I gave him $20 for, you know, I figure maybe it will help him, I don't know. And when I gave him the $20 I asked him to give me something in return, which was his knife. And he gave it to me.

You know, it's funny 'cause when I told my mom about what happened, you know, no mom wants to hear this, but with her she was like, well, you know, you're the type of kid that always if someone asked you for the time, you gave them your watch.

I don't know, I figure, you know, you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It's as simple as it gets in this complicated world.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: That's Julio Diaz at StoryCorps in New York City. His interview will be archived along with all the others at the American Folk Life Center at the Library of Congress. And you can subscribe to this project's Podcast by going to npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.