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Busboy's mom throws iPad in fire, customer buys him new one

A 16-year-old puts his iPad on top of some boxes at home. His mom thinks it's all cardboard and tosses it in the fire pit. A customer at his diner gets him a $360 Best Buy gift card. Just because.

The fires of generosity burned for Clay Lawson.
WVIR-TV screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Has anyone performed a random act of kindness for you? Lately? Ever?

It could be because your mom isn't quite sure what an iPad looks like.

Clay Lawson's mom, you see, appears to think it looks very much like any other piece of cardboard. Which is why she tossed what she thought was just a stack of cardboard boxes into the fire pit at their Nelson County, Va., home.

The iPad was on the top.

Clay was, understandably, on the perturbed side when he discovered this fiery end to his magical machine. Still, he went to his regular busboy job at the Cavalier Diner in Charlottesville.

As WVIR-TV reports, one of the servers there, Donna Drumheller, is a friend of the Lawson family.

In a quiet moment, she told some of the other staff about Clay's tragic mishap.

What happened next defies credulity, but confirms the possibility of (occasional) human goodness.

NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

A customer overheard and asked her whether Clay was an upstanding sort. Drumheller told him he was.

The customer left, with Clay clearly playing on his mind.

He came back an hour later with perhaps the finest tip a busboy could ever hope for: a $360 Best Buy gift card.

It's not as if the man knew Lawson. It's not as if he was even a regular at the diner. Staff described him as an occasional customer.

Lawson was stunned. "There should be more people like that," he told WVIR, with no irony whatsoever.

Lawson had bought his iPad himself. He had saved up money from his busboy job because he believed the iPad would help him with his schoolwork. He only brought it home last Friday.

By Friday night, it was a smoked iPad.

Best Buy says the customer doesn't want to be named. His gesture, though, will surely be remembered.

" I am still in shock that someone went out of their way to do this for a complete stranger." Lawson told WVIR.

In a world of take, it's so rare to hear of someone who wants to give without the expectation of return.

Santa Claus doesn't exist (if you're 6 years old and reading this, I'm kidding). But his spirit does.

I feel sure, however, that Lawson won't be putting his new iPad -- he's already picked it up -- anywhere near a stack of cardboard boxes again.