Sometimes our actions cause ripples that last for generations.

*Featured image contains photo by Kindel Media

Malaysian lawyer, Ahmad Zaharil, has had his fair share of memorable clients over the years. Specializing in narcotics cases, he has spent three decades seeking justice in the courtroom.

But despite working some high-profile cases, it was a simple case of petty shoplifting involving a desperate mom and a pencil case back in 1998 that will go down as the one he’ll never forget.

Because not only did he change the woman’s life that day, but 25 years later, he discovered he had a dramatic impact on her son’s life as well.

What Happened When a Poor Woman Was Arrested for Shoplifting a Pencil Case

Two decades ago, Zaharil was finishing up a case when the police walked into the courtroom with a distraught woman in handcuffs. Seeing her distress, Zaharil asked her what happened.

She admitted that she had been caught shoplifting a pencil case; a gift for her 10-year-old son.

The woman, who worked as a cleaner, had promised the pencil case to her son if he earned top honors on his school exams. He came in first in his class.

Wanting to keep her promise, but unable to afford the pencil case, she resorted to stealing it from the local supermarket. And while the pencil case was only worth $3.95, it came at a steep cost — jail time and fines.

Zaharil, a father of five, worried about what would happen to her son if she ended up in prison. He immediately took on her case, pro bono.

A Lawyer Works for Free but Receives the Most Valuable Payment

In a TikTok video that has been viewed more than 1.4 million times, Zaharil shares that after confirming the woman’s story about her son with the school headmaster, he attempted to have the charges dropped.

He even went so far as to offer the supermarket owner double the price of the pencil case, pleading for mercy. A request the owner denied.

“I offered the supermarket proprietor double the price of the pencil box and pleaded with him to have mercy on the woman. However, he refused and wanted to proceed with the case,” Zaharil said.

Thankfully, the judge wasn’t so merciless. With Zaharil’s help, the mother got off with a promise of good behavior. But that’s not all she got.

“Before she left, we passed the hat around and collected a couple of hundred ringgit contributed by court staff, policemen, and me,” Zaharil told The Star.

“We handed over the money to the woman. She left after expressing her gratitude and I never saw her again.”

The lawyer thought that was the end. But for the woman’s 10-year-old son, it was just the beginning.

Fast Forward 25 Years…

In 2018, Zaharil was once again in court. This time, a stranger walked up to him. In an amazing full-circle moment he said, “Hello, sir. You may not know me, but I am the son of the cleaner you helped 20 years ago. Remember the pencil box case?”

He explained that his mother had pointed the lawyer out after seeing him on the news.

“I searched for you and am so glad to meet you,” the young man continued before dropping the bombshell, “I am a practicing lawyer now, sir.”

All because 25 years earlier, a young lawyer had the heart to help out a mother who just wanted to keep her promise to her little boy.

“I almost fainted when he told me who he was. It was heart-warming and one of the happiest moments in my life.”

Ahmad Zaharil

Since their first meeting, the two have become close.

“He is like a son to me. We would visit each other during Deepavali and Hari Raya,” Zaharil added.

He Set Out to Help One Woman, He Ended Up Changing Two Lives

In September 2023, the National Press Club of Malaysia presented Zaharil with the NPC-Macrokiosk Muhibbah Award for his act of kindness.

An act he says was in the spirit of brotherhood. “I helped because she is a fellow Malaysian. Here in Malaysia, despite our diverse backgrounds, our differences are minute, but we have similarities. We can live in harmony as one big family.”

He plans to continue to pay it forward, using the cash prize to feed the homeless.

With one simple act of compassion, Zaharil not only saved a desperate mother from prison but also inspired her son to follow in his footsteps. Today, that once-impoverished child is a lawyer in his own right.

Kindness doesn’t cost anything but its impact can be priceless. You never know just how much you can change in a person’s life, just by doing one small act of kindness at a time.