There was just one present under the tree.
Sitting on the couch in the breakroom of Best Buy on Nov. 24, Alma Flores suspected her son John David Flores may have known what was to come.
“John, do you know what’s going on?” Alma recalled asking him, knowing that only she knew what was inside the gift: a new camera for her son, who dearly loves photography.
John David, 35, said he didn’t know, but knowing the employees of the McAllen store, who he now considers his close friends, he knew they had something special prepared for him.
The McAllen native, who has a learning disability, has been an avid student of the store’s Digital Imaging Seminars, where anyone can learn about basic camera techniques. Staff, however, knew that he was using an old camera. So, Raul Flores, the stores’ Geek Squad senior consultation agent, coordinated with company leaders and Canon to give him a new one.
“They brought up to my attention that there was someone who had perfect attendance, and we all wanted to do something special for him,” Flores said. “He has been attending our seminars, and we just wanted to show how much we support him.”
After opening a box, only find another box, John David finally saw his new camera, a Canon EOS 80D DSLR. Alma said she expected him to cry after opening his gift and was surprised he didn’t. Perhaps he was in shock.
“At home, he said, ‘Mom, you know what? I am going to do this because this is how I feel, and I did not do it before,’” she recalled.
John David then started jumping up and down, explaining how excited he was about his new camera. Alma said he even thanked Jesus.
“Every parent wants that for your kids, for people outside of family to care for them just as much as you do,” Alma, 65, said. “I am so grateful. People being nice to your kids is better than them complimenting you or saying something nice about you.”
John David’s learning disability keeps him from reading and writing, but Alma said he becomes someone else when he tries to learn about photography.
“He gets into it, he loves it,” Alma said. “It’s like he comes out and gets in his element.”
John David, who has a part-time job at Mr. Gatti’s Pizza, said he likes to take pictures of nature, specifically the palm trees and red flowers in his backyard. The pair often visit local parks to capture the scenery there.
“(I am) really grateful, like, they made (an) effort,” John David said. “(They) surprised me, gave me a camera. I am really in love with it now.”
Alma said he takes it with him wherever he goes now, and added that though John David got a free camera, she got a priceless gift: reassurance in her community.
“He got an expensive camera, but it’s good for me because it showed me that the community does care about each other,” Alma said. “We talk to the staff like we are all friends now, and they love John David and he loves them back.”
Recently, John David visited the store to give staff homemade ornaments, including one to Raul.
“I never thought this would happen with a customer,” he said. “I am glad that we got to share his story. His mom is so happy and John David is happy about his camera, but I am so grateful, too. It takes time for them to build this relationship with us and trust us.
“He should know that he not only has a new camera, but he has new relationships here, a family. I learned that small gestures could become big movements and the whole thing just inspired me to look differently at my job and community.”