A police officer in Florida got a pleasant surprise when a 9-year-old boy took it upon himself to pay for the officer's breakfast.
Lakeland Police Officer Eddie Benitez was having breakfast at Denny's on April 27 when he saw 9-year-old Noah Smiling approaching his table.
"I was there eating my breakfast and all of a sudden I see this little gentleman walking towards me," Benitez told WRBL. "I was just thinking he would come and say, 'Hi, how you doing,' you know."
But as Noah's mother, Amanda Cantin, explained, her son had other plans.
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"He says, 'Mom there’s a police officer down there,'" Amanda told the news station. "I said, 'Yeah I know, I saw him when I walked in.' And he’s like, 'I know what to do.' And I’m like, 'What?' And he goes, 'Can I pay for his breakfast?' And I said absolutely."
So Noah paid Benitez's check and brought the receipt over to him.
The officer was taken aback, but it was what Noah wrote on the receipt that really made an impression.
"He hands me the tab … and I look at him and I look at the tab, and I’m like wait a minute," Benitez said. "I put my glasses on and I read it … He wrote on top of it: 'I want to be you when I grow up.'"
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"Like I said, it just made my day."
He added that he was inspired by the boy's gesture.
"It meant everything," he said. "It meant that I'm supposed to wake up every morning and put on his uniform and go out there and do what I do. ... It means that I need to keep trying to be a good example to all these young guys."
After thanking Noah for his generosity, Benitez asked if the two of them could pose for a picture together. Noah agreed, and later that day the Lakeland Police Department uploaded the photo to its Facebook account.
"Well Noah you touched all of our hearts today," the department wrote. "Your support means so much to all of the men and women who put on the uniform every day. We wish you the happiest of Birthdays! (Noah turns the BIG 9 this Saturday!)"
Amanda told Inside Edition that her son first indicated that he wanted to be a police officer four years earlier.
"If 10 years from now he puts on that uniform and has that badge on, I will be one proud mom," she said.
Asked why he wants to be a cop, Noah said the reason is simple: "I’m going to make the world a better place and capture the bad guys."