A young girl’s connection with a grocer at a Florida supermarket has gone viral, prompting her mother to establish a charity. Fiona and her mother, Rachel Smith, are sharing their story to inspire others to be nice and to better their lives.
When Smith visited the aisles of the Publix Super Market in Fort Myers, there was usually a friendly environment. Even after Fiona was born, she continued to go there for groceries every Saturday.
It quickly became her daughter’s favorite spot to visit after she formed a bond with Gilnet the grocer, whom Fiona refers to as “high five.”
Fiona Smith and Gilnet have always looked out for each other whenever she visits the business since the first time they met.
“From the minute I first brought her to the store, Gilnet was always delighted to see her,” she told GMA of her daughter’s unexpected connection with their grocer. “I watched her starting to recognize him and then going out of her way to look for him,” Smith explained.
“One of their first contacts was him trying to teach her a high five,” Smith recalls. She couldn’t pick it up for a time. But then she figured it out one day. Then she started calling him ‘High Five.’ We’d walk into the store, and she’d exclaim, ‘hello fi,’ and tear off seeking for him.”
On Fiona’s third birthday, March 8, 2019, Gilnet, her parents’ neighbor, bought a present for his young pal and brought it on her birthday weekend, stating he hoped he wasn’t “overstepping.”
“It was wrapped up in a box, so we didn’t know what it was until they brought it over to my place on her birthday,” Smith remembered. “[Fiona] pulled it open with glee, realizing it was her very first bicycle.” She adored it and wanted to express her gratitude to him by sending him photos of herself riding it.”
They went to the store to thank him personally and hand-deliver the thank you letter and a hearty hug. “She calls him ‘High Five,'” her mother noted, “because they always share a high five.” “He’s invaluable to us.”
But then the pandemic hit, and they stopped going to the grocery store. Smith said they stopped going when COVID hit, and Gilnet also switched stores.
But, with everything reopening and life returning to normal, they went to find the store where Gilnet was working.
“I was finally able to find out his new location, and I’m bringing her there today to say hello again to her close friend,” Smith explained, adding that Fiona “hasn’t stopped talking about it since I informed her on Friday.”
A flood of goodwill
Smith has also opted to pay it forward by posting Fiona and Gilnet’s connection on Instagram and TikTok, and people have replied by asking how they can assist the Publix employee.
Smith established a GoFundMe page for him, writing, “I’d love to give something tangible back to him for the joy he’s given my daughter her entire life.” In just three days, their $5,000 objective was exceeded by more than $400, and she intends to notify the grocer.
She wanted to express to him how much he has influenced her daughter and others who have been touched by his kindness. “I also want to surprise him by telling him that he’s inspired so many people to share tales about their own ‘High Fives’ who were powerful influences on them and their children,” she added.
Gilnet’s kindness has had such an impact on the mother and daughter that they are now launching their own charity: “I’m building out a small charity called ‘Who’s Your High Five,’ where people can submit stories about people who’ve positively impacted their lives the way he’s positively impacted ours.”
There’s no telling how a simple act of kindness may have such a profound impact on people’s life, but that’s such an amazing story for all of us to never underestimate the power of being kind to people of all ages and conditions.