Hollywood movies and sitcoms have a tendency to glamorize being young and broke. They make joblessness look like a worthwhile challenge, and at times, they even make it look appealing. But in the real world, it’s anything but a good time.
That’s why one cold February day 18-year-old Jhaqueil Reagan was willing to walk 10 miles in the Indiana snow and slush just for an interview. Best-case scenario would be a minimum wage job that involved a 10-mile hike to work every day.
But Reagan didn’t care. He had been unemployed for four months, and his job search was proving to be a greater challenge than he expected. His mother had passed away two years before, and he was now surviving by staying with friends. He didn’t even have enough money to feed himself, let alone go out and enjoy his teen years.
But he did have the will to work.
While on the way to the job interview, Reagan stopped a man to ask how far he still had to walk.
Art Bouvier, owner of the New Orleans style restaurant “Papa Roux,” crossed paths with Reagan when the boy stopped outside his restaurant to ask him how much further his destination was. He described the encounter through a post on his personal Facebook page.
“At least 6 or 7 miles,” Bouvier told him. “I suggested that he would be far better off on the bus than on foot, especially in all this ice and slush. He thanked me and continued on.”
Bouvier was expecting the boy to ask him for bus money, but when he didn’t, he figured it was because he already had the money he needed for the bus. He was surprised when he found the boy walking alongside an icy road with no sidewalk 15 minutes later.
When Bouvier pulled over and asked him why he hadn’t taken the bus, he told him it was because he couldn’t afford the bus until he got a job. Upon hearing Reagan’s response, he asked him to get in the car and drove him the rest of the way.
Bouvier gave Reagan a lift to the thrift store where the teen had an interview, and they chatted along the way—then Bouvier had an idea.
Bouvier asked him if he’d eaten anything that day, and when Reagan told him he hadn’t, he gave him some money and dropped him off at a nearby Dairy Queen. Even as he wished him luck, Bouvier knew he wanted Reagan to work at his restaurant.
“I decided I can’t afford to pass [him] up,” Bouvier told RTV6 News. “Because anybody that’s going to walk 10 miles to an interview through the snow and ice will definitely get here for work on a sunny day.”
Bouvier offered Reagan a job at his restaurant.
Reagan said his job interview at the thrift store went “ok,” though they didn’t seem too impressed and they didn’t call him back. It didn’t matter anyway, Bouvier already knew he wanted him to join his team.
“He doesn’t know it yet, but he starts with us on Monday,” he wrote in his Facebook post.
Once he was offered the job, Reagan accepted immediately, describing the encounter to Fox59 News as “Crazy. I don’t even know… it’s really crazy.”
One month short of his 19th birthday, Reagan was making a lot more than the Indiana minimum wage he would have received at the thrift store. He started working as a busboy and server; and was so grateful for the chance.
“I’m lucky I met him. I’m really lucky I met him,” Reagan said of Bouvier.
After his story went viral, Reagan’s life completely changed.
“It really has changed quick,” Reagan told Fox59 News. “I went from sleeping on a couch to sleeping in my own house, you know, my own apartment.”
So many people saw his story and wanted to help him out financially that he decided to pay it forward and start a foundation to help other disadvantaged people looking for work.
Amazing what a chance encounter, a good work ethic, and the kindness of a stranger can do!