A Utah postal carrier says he recently had a "life-changing" encounter during a delivery route when he met a 12-year-old boy who was reading grocery store advertisements because he said he didn't have any real books to read.
"I was putting mail in the individual boxes for the apartment residents last Thursday when I heard this kid reading through a grocery ad reading things like 'Bananas, 66 cents,' that kind of thing," mailman Ron Lynch, who lives in Sandy, told ABC News. "He later came up and asked if I had any newspapers or junk mail or anything he could read."
Lynch said he told the kid, whose name he learned was Mathew Flores, that he didn't have any extra mail, but that he should try going to the library.
"He said he couldn't afford the bus to the library, so he just walked off, and I thought wait, I got to do something to help this kid out," Lynch said. "So I came over and talked to his mom, who mostly spoke Spanish, but Mathew helped translate. She gave me permission to use a photo of him, which I posted to Facebook along with a plea asking for book donations to his address."
To both Lynch's and Flores' surprise, the post went viral and had over 8,000 likes and over 10,000 shares as of this afternoon.
Flores told ABC News he's received "packages upon packages from all over the world" and now has over 500 books at his home.
A bookshelf in the kitchen that was formerly used as a makeshift pantry is now in Flores' bedroom, his mother Laura Rojas told ABC News today. She added she's so proud of her son and grateful for all the kindness of the donors.
"I only get to read during school, but since it's summer and since we don't have any books and our dad takes the car to work, and we can't afford a bus pass to the library," Flores said. But he's excited for his new collection -- including the entire "Harry Potter" series, which he said he's most excited to start reading.
Lynch, who is also a fellow bibliophile, said he's incredibly happy for Flores.
"Books take you places you've never been before," he said, "and I didn't want him to be in a grocery store. I wanted him to be in other worlds."