This is a tough time of year for many. For every person celebrating the season in a holiday sweater there's someone wrapping themselves in layers and sleeping under a bridge. And if you want to help those folks, it's hard to know where to begin.
Kate McClure knows, and she knows something about gratitude, as well.
Driving into Philly one night, I made the mistake of thinking that I would be able to make it all the way down I- 95 with my gas light on. Needless to say, I was wrong. I never ran out of gas before, and my heart was beating out of my chest. I pulled over as far as I could, and got out of the car to head to the nearest gas station.
That’s when I met Johnny. Johnny sits on the side of the road every day, holding a sign. He saw me pull over and knew something was wrong. He told me to get back in the car and lock the doors. A few minutes later, he comes back with a red gas can. Using his last 20 dollars to make sure I could get home safe.
Johnny did not ask me for a dollar, and I couldn’t repay him at that moment because I didn’t have any cash, but I have been stopping by his spot for the past few weeks. I repaid him for the gas, gave him a jacket, gloves, a hat, and warm socks, and I give him a few dollars every time I see him.
As McClure continued checking in on and helping Johnny, he kept proving his generosity the night she ran out of gas wasn't unusual—it was just part of who he was:
One day I stopped to see him and had a few things in a bag to give him, one of which was a box of cereal bars so he could have something that he could carry around and eat. He was very appreciative as usual and the first thing he said was “do you want one?”
Damn. It's dusty in here.
So Kate McClure began her fundraising effort with a modest goal of $10,000.
As of Friday, Nov. 24, she's raised $316,199.
Johnny has begun his fresh start. The 34-year-old Marine Corp. veteran and former paramedic plans to re-up his Pennsylvania EMS certification and is aiming for a job in an Amazon distribution center in the interim.
So yeah, the holidays can be really tough. And the feel-good stories you do see are often almost too sweet to believe, too sugary. Not this one, though.
Sometimes people are just good, and they make the whole world feel like a better place in the bargain.