College student Ahmed Alwan started the game at the Lucky Candy deli to help members of the community focus on paying higher priority expenses, like rent and utilities.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on February 14, 2020. It has since been updated.
It's not often that you see people doing good just because they can. After all, it's difficult to think about others when you're on the grind yourself. However, when it happens, it's quite heartwarming. A deli cashier from New York City decided to spread the wealth by letting customers take food home for free. However, there's a little bit of a catch. Before they get to treat themselves to free goodies, they've got to answer a simple math problem correctly, CNN reports. Turns out that learning math in the age of calculators can actually do you some good.
The deli store, Lucky Candy, is located in the Bronx, one of the five boroughs of New York City. The ingenious plan was devised by the store's cashier, Ahmed Alwan. Alwan is a 20-year-old college student who's become easily recognizable to all the regular customers who visit the store, but it's not just because of his bright smile and vibrant energy. About two weeks ago, he introduced his game to shoppers and it was a huge hit. The rules of his little game are quite simple. He shouts out a simple math question (similar to something you would have solved in middle school) and you have one shot to answer it. If you get it right, you have five seconds to run around the store and grab whatever you want. Whatever you grab and get on the cash counter before the countdown ends is yours to take home—for free! There's only one thing you're not allowed to take: his cat. Before you ask, yes, someone actually has tried to do so.
In an interview with CNN, he explained why he introduced the game. "All I wanted to do was to help people," Alwan said. "But I wanted to make it fun. So I made a TikTok and chose a challenge, asking them a math question. It's a way to entertain and educate people in need while putting a smile on their faces, too." Ever since he began the challenge, he's been posting videos on Instagram and has quickly become an internet sensation. He's gained 300,000 followers on TikTok and 17,000 on Instagram. But he didn't introduce the challenge to get famous; he's had a long history of giving back. To Alwan, it's not about fame.
The college student pays for everything out of his own pocket. What he truly cares about is helping low-income community members save for higher-priority expenses, such as rent and utilities. Saleh Aobad, Alwan's father and the store owner, said he's incredibly proud of his son. "It's great to see him do good and help out the community, and most importantly represent Islam," he shared. "It's impacting the business in a positive way, bringing awareness and attention to the store as well as spreading positivity throughout the community." While his videos are funny and heartwarming, they've also done a lot to bind the community tighter together. Alwan explained, "This changed our relationship with the community big time. They're all showing me so much love and lining up at the store just for a chance to play. We have so many visitors coming to take pictures and say hi. But it's not about me. It's about the community." Since the challenge is so popular, Alwan has started a GoFundMe so he can raise money to keep playing it. You can donate to it here.