When a homeless man came into her restaurant asking for money, this restaurant owner never would have imagined he was a blessing in disguise…
Here Come The Homeless
Cesia Abigail Baire’s restaurant, located in the heart of Minneapolis, was opened up several years ago. She named it “Abi’s Cafe,” serving El Salvadorian food to the Powderhorn community that is made up of eight different neighborhoods in Minneapolis. She was hard at work when all of a sudden a man appeared…
But before we continue the story, we must understand the setting. The story takes place right as winter ended in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a notoriously cold state that gets northern winds that come from the north pole. It is in close proximity to another city, St. Paul. Together they make up the twin cities, as Minnesotans call them. Out of some 400,000 people who live in Minneapolis, only around 10% are Hispanic. Therefore, most people are unfamiliar with El Salvadorian food, although such a restaurant may generate curiosity.
Cold Winters, Warm People
Despite the cold weather, the people of Minneapolis are among the nicest you will ever meet. That is, if you can survive the cold! Maybe there’s just something in the viciously cold weather that makes people want to reach out and help their fellow man. However, tough times have befallen many people who live in Minneapolis. Notably, this has culminated in a city of tents popping up earlier this year. In Minneapolis, being homeless in the winter is no picnic.
Although she meshes in so well with her environment, Cesia Abigail Baire isn’t actually from Minneapolis, originally hailing from Bayonne, New Jersey, a city in between Manhattan and Staten Island, practically in New York City. Unlike other Minnesotans who like the Vikings, she supports the Giants. For many years she has called Minneapolis her home, and it’s also where she tried her fortune by opening up a business. While Mexican food is in abundance in Minneapolis, Abi’s Cafe is one of the few places to get authentic El Salvadorian food.
Abi’s Cafe hadn’t been open for more than several months when her visitor arrived, asking for money. Later, Cesia said, “I’ve seen him going up and down on Main St before like a lot of other homeless people.” Indeed, “There are a lot of people who walk in,” she admitted, as there is a lot of illegal activity and crime in the area. Some people might have gotten anxious or uncomfortable if they ended up in such a situation, but not Cesia.
Struggling To Stay Afloat
The man came in at a terrible time. It was at the end of a very long day. At this time, she had to work all opening hours just to keep the place afloat. Minnesotans are just not as familiar as they could be with the type of food eaten in El Salvador. In the winter, when it’s a struggle to go outside, people prefer tried and true foods they are familiar with. Business was rough.
Why Don’t You Get A Job
“He came in asking for money,” Cesia said. “I told him nothing is given for free here. Even my family pays when they come in here.” In addition, Cesia asked, “Why don’t you have a job?” She explained later she was interested in seeing his reaction. Many people wouldn’t have answered or would have taken offense, she reasoned, but she was curious. Instead of getting upset, however, he bowed his head, avoided eye contact, and answered her…
With candor, the man said, “Well, I have a lot of felonies and no one wants to hire me for that. So now I had to turn myself to the streets and get money the only way I know — stealing and asking for money.” Many homeless people find themselves in this Catch-22 situation: because of their past crimes, they are unable to find employment and are forced to beg or steal, which adds more felony charges that make it even more difficult to find employment.
The homeless man, who introduced himself as Marcus, admitted that he had been living rough since he was 16. He needed a break; he didn’t even have a roof over his head. Moreover, the felonies he had accrued for theft meant that he would have a hard time finding employment. Cesia admitted that she didn’t have the money, but she also “felt a connection with him.” Instead of turning him away or just giving him money she couldn’t afford to give him, she offered him a deal…
“I’ll Do Anything For Food”
“You want a job? Then I have one for you,” Cesia told the man. She could have easily thrown him out of her cafe and onto the streets. Tough times meant that she was unable to afford handouts. What she could offer him she did, and it came in the form of employment. She handed him an apron, which he took graciously. “I’ll do anything for food, ” he said, revealing his desperation. But she could only afford to have him work for two hours…
Sharing The Little He Had
She could only afford to pay him for two hours, but little did she know that she would be getting back much more than she put in, as she would later find out. Before he got started, she gave him a sandwich to eat. Half of this he ate on the spot, while he put the other half aside. She assumed that he was saving this for later, so she was surprised when she saw Marcus give it to another homeless person outside.
What Did He Do With The Money?
Cesia said she thought she saw “one of his lady friends walking by,” and Marcus “ran to the door and gave the food to her. I said, ‘Marcus do you know the lady over there?’ and he said ‘No, but I know that she is hungry so I gave her my food.'” This only validated her initial good feelings about Marcus and she offered him regular employment. In addition, he insisted on spending his money on food in Abi’s Cafe!
The next day, he showed up for work on time, as he did every working day. “A lot of people are saying I’ve been a blessing for him, ” Cesia said. “But, at that point, I was the one who needed a blessing. Some restaurants wouldn’t even let you use their restrooms. I don’t judge someone on how they look— go use it. I do not treat [the homeless] any different.” Since the day she first gave Marcus a chance, he has helped her with more than just washing dishes…
Putting Some Aside
Her own personal experience with Marcus isn’t what he had come to expect from other restauranteurs. Many restaurant owners would have seen him as an unwanted guest at best, or at worst a threat to the business and paying customers. According to Cesia, all those people are part of the problem. To help Marcus learn how to save, they had decided together to put 10 percent of what he earns on the side so he can have a brighter future. That’s not all she did, however…
After being touched when she saw Marcus give half his sandwich to someone else, having her initial good feelings about Marcus be validated, Cesia summed it up as follows: “[Marcus] is just great. A really great guy.” Meanwhile, Marcus’ friends saw that he was now working at a restaurant as they passed Abi’s Cafe. They were absolutely shocked, scratching their heads in disbelief. Who could have imagined that this was the same Marcus that they had known from the streets?
“She Treats Us Like Regular People”
In addition to gaining a great worker, Cesia said, “I love that more people, his friends, are out there coming in just to see if he is really working.” One of those friends, Amanda, shared a meal with Cesia on one occasion. “[Baires] just treats us like regular people,” Amanda said, instead of “judging us, on anything.” This attitude is especially needed for those who are on the bottom rung of society, the forgotten members of communities.
“I was struggling the day that he came, with my business not doing well,” Cesia admitted. “I was the one ready to give up on my goals. He has been a blessing for me and my business.” This is in large part because, after posting his story on Facebook, the story of Marcus’ change of luck went viral. Locals were curious about Cesia and her restaurant, so they tried some El Salvadorian food. In addition, she began getting praise from regular, everyday people just like her from around the world.
The touching story didn’t only garner the attention of normal people, but also some very high profile celebrities. This only helped widen the exposure that the story received, which in turn only helped her business. Soon, people who originally came to support a restauranteur doing became were regular customers. Various news stations even came to interview her. Throughout it all, she reaped the benefits by getting exposure for her restaurant. Soon, everyone knew about Abi’s Cafe because of her assistance to Marcus. Soon, it would be known for its delicious food, too…
Cesia summarizes her assistance as “a hand up, not a handout.” Aware of how much she benefitted from the exposure on social media and realizing that it could also help her new friend, she launched a GoFundMe page called “A Hand Up Not A Hand Out.” This was to help Marcus fulfill his dream of finally putting a roof over his head and finding somewhere to live. Thanks to the kind support of people from all over, she raised $8,000 for him.
This even caught the attention of her favorite American football team, the New York Giants. They sent her some merchandise as a token of appreciation for her helping others in need. While Marcus is a fan of the Vikings, he appreciated the sentiment so much he posed with Cesia, wearing the Giants apparel they received. “Marcus is currently betraying his team THE VIKINGS,” she wrote on Facebook. “Lmao I am more than happy to know MY TEAM is also in the house helping with making a change !!!!!”
Why She Did It
But what makes Cesia different from all of the restauranteurs that would’ve turned away just another unwanted homeless man? “Just like Marcus,” she explains, “I had my help. I had plenty of people to help make it to where I am today. They believed I could do it. People need to have someone believe in them. It’s going to be hard for him to let go of whatever addiction he has. I want to help [him], but [he] needs to want to help [himself].”
No Longer Working For Me
This all happened early in 2016. Since then, Cesia’s Abi’s Cafe is doing well and has had rave reviews ever since she got her initial break. All of this is thanks to Marcus. As for the legend himself, she wrote in a Facebook post that “Marcus is no longer working for me as he found something more fitting for him, but he still comes around to talk or help me out as he is very thankful for the change that was given.”
Teach A Man To Fish
Overwhelmed by all of the positive feedback given by so many random people around the world, as well as the celebrities and locals coming to eat at Abi’s Cafe, Cesia expresses gratitude. “I appreciate all of your words and wishes for my business, myself, and Marcus,” she wrote online. As for any advice she has for the rest of us after this experience, she wrote: “Go and give someone a much-needed chance today. You could change a life, too! And after, come and try our delicious pupusas!”