Caleb Duncan didn’t do it to be recognized.
“I was just coming in to get a few things, honestly … ”
He committed one of the kindest deeds the manager of the Dollar General store at Hwy. 51 and Tracy Road in Atoka has seen.
“People pay it forward sometimes, but we’ve never seen it like that,” Terann Fisher said.
During a quick stop at the store on Aug. 18 a customer in front of Caleb was struggling with paying for something, onlooker Lou Wright said, and Caleb wanted to help.
“Caleb wanted to pay for her things but he did not want to embarrass her, so he did something very kind and clever,” said Lou Wright, who was also in line.
And so he did what few people have done.
“There was a line behind me and everybody had a few things, so I just told the lady to ring up everybody behind me,” Caleb said.
He said the man behind him in line seemed as if he were going to bow out of the gesture, but Caleb wouldn’t let him.
“I said, ‘Oh no, it’s going all the way back there.’
He planned on just paying and leaving, but Lou caught up to him in the parking lot.
“I flagged him down as I was leaving and told him what a wonderful gesture that was and I knew exactly why he did what he did,” she said. “In fact a man that was walking in witnessed what he did and proceeded to pay for the lady behind him!”
She took his photo and shared the story of his kindness on Facebook, which quickly garnered a lot of attention.
“I’m a real shy person, it’s a lot of attention but it’s positive attention,” the 22-year-old Tipton County native who works in construction with Mississippi State said.
The well-circulated post got the attention of the Dollar General Corporation. On Saturday morning the store manager, two local district managers, and the region director presented Caleb with two gift cards – one for him and one to encourage him to continue paying it forward – as well as a donation to the Bread of Life Food Pantry in his honor.
“One of the things we do is we celebrate acts of kindness at Dollar General, so if any of our employees go above and beyond we’ll usually find that employee and make a donation to a charitable organization in that area,” said region director Mark Person. “We don’t usually do that with customers …”
They decided Caleb’s good deed was worthy of an honor usually limited to those employed by the Goodlettsville-based corporation. He was also given the Walk the Walk recognition from Dollar General.
“One of the things we commit to is giving back to areas that are underserved, that are food deserts, so we made a donation because of that act of kindness,” Person said.
After the donation, Caleb handed customers in line the gift card and paid it forward again.
“Look at that …” Person said as the customers were being photographed with district managers. “We were hoping he’d do that and he did.”
“A lot of people are just thanking me for … being me, I guess,” Caleb said. “And a lot of people are seeing that and paying it forward as well. That’s all I wanted. Especially since it’s where I grew up, I love to see it.”