LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) — A Lee County deputy is sharing how a random act of kindness from three young ladies while he was grabbing a quick bite to eat will forever live in his heart.

Lee County Deputy Manuel Stone gets emotional thinking about the kind gesture he experienced while having lunch this week in Lee County. Deputy Stone was sitting by himself in uniform when three young ladies approached and handed him a note.

“They walked up with a piece of paper and said, will you do us a favor, and I said sure. They said, don’t open this note until we leave, and I was like okay. So, they left, and I opened it. The note says: “We have paid for your meal. Thank you for your service to our community.” It made me feel really good. I still get a little teary-eyed,” Stone said.

Stone has kept the note with him in his patrol vehicle since Tuesday’s kind gesture. Suddenly, a slip of paper became a forever keepsake.

Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said that not a day goes by someone doesn’t thank him or one of his deputies for a job well done. He said Stone is an excellent peace officer who always puts service to others above himself.

“It means so much, more than anyone will ever know. It’s fascinating how a simple piece of paper can be transformed into what our peace officers consider a priceless document when the words of a youngster are applied in support of us,” Jones said.

Stone said the community has always been supportive. He believes the positive relationship is a testament to the training local peace officers and deputies receive and how they interact daily with the public.

A father of three who enjoys coaching when he’s off duty, Stone said the gesture on behalf of the three teenagers touched his heart because it came from a younger generation.

“I love serving people, I love protecting people, and I love the community I live in,” he said.

Stone said he also feels called to serve as a bridge as Americans discuss race relations in our community and law enforcement.

“I’m literally in the middle. I am white. I am black, and I’m police. I am smack dab in the middle, so I am connected and have experiences on all three sides,” he said.

Stone said he believes the vast majority of Lee County law enforcement wear the badge with pride and honor in service of a thankful community.

“We hear about so much negative. I want to share the positives on all sides, we need more of that,” he said.

Stone said kind gestures, like having a meal paid for along with a kind note, go a long way as we continue to build an even better, more unified community.