APPLE VALLEY — The generosity of a stranger at a local Wal-Mart left one family overwhelmed and filled with a deep sense of gratitude.
Seth Burrell and his family sat down with the Daily Press at a local McDonald’s on Monday and shared their special Christmas miracle that occurred during a family shopping trip last week.
Burrell said he came across a couple of “special and unique” toys for his two sons at the Wal-Mart on Highway 18 in Apple Valley.
When his bank card was declined at checkout, Burrell said he put all the items back and took the two toys to the customer service department where he asked if they could hold them until tomorrow when his vacation check cleared.
“The employee told me they could only hold the toys for two hours — that’s when this man walked up and asked me how much the toys were,” said Burrell, 29, who lives in Apple Valley with his wife, Sandy, and their four children. “I was blown away, but also a bit embarrassed by the situation.”
Burrell said the stranger, who identified himself as a Marine, thought Burrell was a fellow Marine because he was wearing a camouflage-type ball cap that displayed a U.S. patch.
“I told him I was not a Marine and was wearing the cap in honor of my grandfather, Aruelio Savedra, who was in the Marines and died in October,” Seth Burrell said. “The man shook my hand and thanked me for being honest with him.”
Burrell said he began to choke back tears when the stranger told him he was still buying the toys because, “Marines take care of other fellow Marines — period.” He also told Burrell he could pay the stranger back by “paying it forward.”
“The weird and amazing thing is the pay-it-forward concept was taught to me by my grandfather who was drafted in World War II and also fought in the Korean War,” Burrell said. “He was a special man who really taught me a lot, including helping others. Our family makes it a priority to give to the needy on a regular basis.”
Burrell said the stranger smiled at him and said, “It feels good when it comes back to you, don’t it?”
He also told Burrell to continue being humble and to pay it forward because, “You never know when you might need it again.”
“I got tears in my eyes and thanked this stranger for everything,” Burrell said. “I also wished him a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Things happened so fast that I didn’t even get his name.”
Sandy Burrell, who was waiting in the family’s truck while her husband returned the merchandise to Wal-Mart, said she began shedding tears of joy when her husband returned with toys in hand and began telling her the story.
“It’s one of those things that make you happy that there’s still good people out in the world that want to help others,” said Sandy Burrell as her daughters, Marissa, 8, and Serenity, 4, ate their soft serve cones inside McDonald’s. “Charity is something we demonstrate as a family all year long.”
Marissa Burrell told the Daily Press a Christmas Day family tradition is purchasing “A ton of tacos from Del Taco” and passing them out to the homeless” along with beanies, gloves, blankets and other necessities the family has been collecting all year long.
“One year, a homeless man cried after we gave him the tacos and the clothing,” Sandy Burrell said. “He said no one ever gave him anything on Christmas.”
Seth Burrell, who said he found a $5 bill outside of Wal-Mart right after his encounter with the stranger, said he immediately gave it away to a local individual who looked like they needed a helping hand.
“It’s a good feeling to help others, especially during Christmas,” Marissa Burrell said. “I know it makes them happy and our family happy too.”
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.
(c)2016 Daily Press, Victorville, Calif. — www.vvdailypress.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.