SAN ANTONIO — Elijah Arnold doesn't think he's a hero for stopping breakfast bandits but his customers at a Northwest Side IHOP disagree.
“They tell me thank you for what you did, you know, it's amazing," the 22-year-old waiter said. “I had some people come in and give me give cards to Walmart and Macy's. I had one come send me a check in the mail, which I thought was pretty awesome."
Arnold was on the job for just a few weeks when alleged robbers tried to steal money from the register one mid-October morning. The third-degree black belt stepped in to stop them. He ended up being hit in the face with a crowbar while in the process of subduing a suspect. He suffered 3 compound nose fractures and a shattered cheekbone. Arnold’s server salary pays just $2.13 an hour.
“People thought I was crazy,” he told Fox San Antonio’s Ryan Wolf. “But I went down a bad road about two years ago, and IHOP was one of the jobs that accepted me back. They knew me personally. And they gave me a real, second chance."
To truly understand why this certified sous chef put his life on the line, you have to look to a Northeast Side Walmart parking lot where Arnold spends his nights. He lives in a broken down Infiniti that he purchased for $400. It’s his makeshift home.
"Every time I get off from work, I either get a ride or get the bus, and just come right back here,” he nervously chuckled to Wolf with a smile. “I just pull the seat back and go to sleep."
Everything to his name is pretty much inside the vehicle. He blames abandonment issues as an adopted child for triggering a life on the streets. But after a series of bad decisions, failed relationships and stress that led to massive weight gain--Arnold realized he needed to change.
"I have a lot of stuff that I have to forgive myself for,” he explained. “I have a lot of stuff to say, okay you did this last year, now you can do it this way this year."
To turn his life around, Arnold vowed to stop only thinking about himself. He believes the robbery may have been a test.
"You tried to save your co-workers,” Wolf told him. “You tried to save the business. You tried to save your customers. And you put your own health and safety on the line. I think that deserves a tip."
Arnold looked surprised as Wolf pulled out a stack of $100 bills from his pocket. The award was from Fox San Antonio's CASH FOR KINDNESS program.
"$600, $700, $800, $900, $1,000,” Arnold said while counting the money aloud. He started to cry. “Thank you sir,” he said while tears rolled down his cheek. “I'd give you a hug but you're in my car right now."
He called the CASH FOR KINDNESS award a sign.
"I never thought something like this would ever happen to me in my life,” he explained. “I thank God. And I thank everyone who's been in my life. Who's gotten me to here"
A powerful sign to help him move forward in life.
"And I thank you too, sir,” he said while shaking Wolf’s hand. “Because without you, I don't think I would ever feel that could move forward any faster."
Arnold said he plans to use the money to help him get out of his car and into an apartment. It’s a much needed boost for a waiter who served up justice.
Click here to nominate someone for the $1,000 CASH FOR KINDNESS prize.
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