- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) - An act of kindness has gone all kinds of viral for a Murfreesboro man and his daughter.

Joey Mustain had taken his young daughter, Stella, to the Chick-fil-A restaurant on Old Fort Parkway Monday afternoon on what he called their “normal daddy-daughter” spot and ended up not only providing a meal, but a life lesson.

While Stella was finishing off an ice cream, the family noticed a scruffy, “homeless traveler” approach the counter and ask for any leftover scraps of food.

“Mud was wet and caked on his well-traveled shoe,” Mustain wrote in the Facebook post that has traveled around the world by now. “His hair was matted, and his beard wasn’t a statement as much as it was a necessity and a sign that he doesn’t get to shave as often as most of us do.

“People near him kept their distance, but that didn’t stop him from being kind. He spoke to people who reluctantly spoke back, and he smiled while he waited on a manager.”

Instead of running the man off, calling the police, or simply ignoring him, manager Josh Stout did something else.

“All I could pick up on of the conversation was the manager saying that he’d love to give him a full, warm meal - not just scraps or extras - and the only thing he required was that the man let him pray with him,” wrote Mustain.

A photo was taken of the moment of prayer, and it has been shared and liked thousands of thousands of times across Facebook and has been brought to public attention on sites such as Yahoo! and various networks. Comments have come in from people around the world, from Australia to India.

“I never expected it,” Mustain told The Daily News Journal. “I was expecting 5, 10, maybe 15 shares. But it was such a special moment.”

According to store operator Beau Noblitt, the moment of generosity and prayer by his manager is just the type of person Josh Stout is and the kind of business Chick-fil-A is.

“I think this reflects the heritage of hospitality that this has been built on,” he told The Daily News Journal.

In an official media release, Noblitt stated: “It is our privilege to be able to serve each and every individual that visits our restaurant. While this moment was captured on camera, there are many more moments between our team members and guests that may go publicly unnoticed but ultimately make a difference in that person’s day.

“I am proud of Josh and the rest of our team who go above and beyond to ensure our guests are served with warm, genuine hospitality every day.”

But the photo opportunity and the eyewitness moment of generosity did more for Mustain than give him a record number of “likes” on a social network. It provided him with a teaching moment with Stella, who will be 4 in March.

“I heard love in that prayer,” he wrote. “The homeless man wasn’t some untouchable stain on business. He was the reason that store opened its doors this morning (or any morning). I asked Stella to watch, and she stared. She asked what was happening, and when I told her, she bowed her head, too.

“I realized then and there that Chick-fil-A doesn’t simply do business for profits, they truly use business to minister.”

Mustain told The Daily News Journal that Stella calls Stout “The Ice Cream Man” because he helps her make her own dessert at the ice cream station.

“This is just another life lesson about how things ought to be,” he said. “It just came from The Ice Cream Man.”

It has been a life lesson for Mustain, too. He got to meet the “homeless traveler,” Justin Burkeen, at Hippie Hill Wednesday afternoon.

“He’s not so much homeless as he is houseless,” said Mustain. “The amazing thing is he works to help the homeless, too. He was just down on his luck that day and didn’t have anything to eat.”

Mustain said he is amazed by the way his story has spread but is hopeful that his message spreads as well.

“The Holy Spirit picked this thing up and ran all the way around the world with it,” he said. “It’s there to make people happy.”

___

Information from: The Daily News Journal, https://www.dnj.com

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