At a time when tensions between police officers and African Americans are high, some good news has emerged from Tarrant, Alabama.
Helen Johnson, 47, lives in poverty with her two daughters, a niece and two grandchildren, ages 1 and 3. This month, her daughter’s welfare check got lost in the mail and the family began to go hungry.
After two days without eating, Johnson went to a Dollar General store with $1.25, hoping to buy some eggs. Upon learning she was more than 50 cents short, Johnson desperately shoved five eggs into her pocket.
"Of course, when I put them in my jacket pocket, they broke,'' Johnson told AL.com. "I'm not a good thief at all.”
A worker apprehended Johnson and informed her the police had already been called.
After the store decided against pressing charges, Tarrant police officer William Stacy bought eggs for Johnson.
"She started crying,'' Stacy said. "She got very emotional and was very apologetic. She tried to give me the money she had on her, $1.25.”
Stacy grew up in a household that was frequently short on food and had been to Johnson’s home before on a call. Johnson and her family have few furnishings, and everyone sleeps on mattresses on the floor.
"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.”
Stacy told Johnson to repay him by not shoplifting again. "I hope she won't do it again,” he said. "I pray she doesn't, and I don't think she will."
The story quickly went viral, but by Tuesday, the family was down to one slice of bread.The officers brought Johnson to their headquarters, signed her up for the annual Tarrant Toy Drive and told her about the donations pouring in.
On Wednesday, Stacy and officer Jay Jenkins took two truckloads of food to Johnson’s apartment. ”The last time I saw my house this full, I was 12 years old and staying with my grandmother,'' she said. ”I've been crying all day.”
Johnson said that if someone asked her for a slice of bread, she would give them a whole loaf and Stacy’s phone number. "My heart is wide open right now,” she said.