Rosa's Fresh Pizza

Mason Wartman, owner of Rosa's Fresh Pizza, appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this year.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, there is a pizza joint that’s helping the homeless one slice at a time.

Mason Wartman quit his job on Wall Street and moved home to Philly to start Rosa’s Fresh Pizza, selling pizza by the slice for $1. One day, a customer came in with a request—he wanted to pay a good deed forward and buy a slice for someone who didn’t have the dollar. Wartman took the dollar and wrote a Post-It note for the counter as a reminder. The next time someone came in who didn’t have a dollar for their slice, he redeemed the note.

And soon, the idea took off.

Today, the walls of this pizza restaurant are covered in Post-It notes that can be redeemed for slices by those who can’t afford to eat. Wartman has been on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. The restaurant’s website now has a way for you to donate a $1 for a slice. And they’ve blown past the 10,000-slice mark for donations.

It’s a small idea. But it really has made the difference in so many lives. Not just in those folks who are hungry, but those who have the ability to help in small ways.

Of course, this sort of thing isn’t new to rural America, is it? We routinely help our neighbors, whether it’s harvesting milo for someone with a family crisis, donating shirts for the local T-ball team or volunteering at a food bank. We pitch in, because that’s what it means to be a good neighbor.

But what’s remarkable to me about Rosa’s is this—no one expects a pat on the back, a tax write-off receipt or any other recognition for his or her $1 Post-It note on the wall. Paying customers often sit next to the homeless customers in Rosa’s, with rarely an altercation. There’s a preservation of dignity of the person redeeming the Post-It note for a free slice. No one makes them feel like they have to qualify for a $1 slice of pizza.

Which makes me wonder. What could we do if we didn’t care who got the credit for it?

Of course, make sure that our own bills are paid and our cost of production is covered. That’s only logical. But do we really need the pat on the back to look around our communities and do good works? Do you wait on a tax credit to donate your time and treasure, or do you just do it knowing it’s the good and right thing to do in a timely manner?

Most importantly, do we have to have that moment of judgment when we get to feel superior to the person in need? Where we make them feel like they should be grateful for whatever scraps we deem appropriate to give them? Does there have to be a mountain of red tape to ensure that the “right people” are benefitting for you to donate?

My parents taught me that good deeds done in quiet and without expectation of applause are their own rewards. Matthew 6:1 tells us, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”

I’m pretty sure that is the biblical version of an anonymous Post-It note paying a pizza slice forward for someone in need.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

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