This article appeared in the February 13, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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New math in the Bronx: Generosity + kindness = community

Courtesy of Ahmed Alwan
Ahmed Alwan (left) works at Lucky Candy, a bodega owned by his father in the Bronx borough of New York City, where he prizes math over money.

Rarely have the multiplication tables brought this much joy.

At Lucky Candy, a bodega in the Bronx, cashier Ahmed Alwan will ask the person checking out a math question. (What’s 10 times 10 minus 50?) If they answer correctly, they have five seconds to grab anything in the store for free. (Except the cat.) Mr. Alwan, a student at Bronx Community College, covers the amount from his own pocket.

His videos on Instagram and TikTok show patrons grabbing bananas, chips – and once the entire nut rack – as Mr. Alwan slowly counts down from five. 

So many people in his neighborhood are struggling, he says, and this is his way of helping them save a little money. The math was to make them smile.

How does his boss feel about the freebies?

Saleh Aobad, the owner and Mr. Alwan’s dad, is very proud.

“It’s great to see him do good and help out the community, and most importantly represent Islam,” Mr. Aobad, an immigrant from Yemen, told CNN.

Mr. Alwan, who started working at 14, has long been quietly generous, extending credit to regulars who need food and giving bananas, rolls, and coffee to people he sees sleeping outside. 

Since the videos have gone viral, he says, it’s changed the shop’s relationship with the community. He’d like to help more people, so he’s set up a GoFundMe page.

“I have been seeing a lot of happy faces,” he writes. “I hope to inspire others to always be kindhearted.”

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This article appeared in the February 13, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 02/13 edition