After stumbling across a bag containing wads of cash, a homeless man was hailed the ultimate hero. Not only did he return the lost item to its respectful owner, but he was rewarded with the ultimate surprise. Here's his story.
In Massachusetts, the city of Boston has thousands of homeless men and women wandering the streets every single night. Back in 2013, one of these individuals was a 50-something-year-old man named Glen James.
Just like nearly all the rest of these people with no roof over their heads, James would spend his days wandering the streets, asking for money from strangers. At night, he tried to sleep at any shelter that had available spots. It was no secret that his life was not an easy one.
Although many people may automatically assume that vagrants are typically using illegal substances, James was not. He was actually clean, and unlike the other individuals who sadly had no homes, the way he ended up where he was, was unrelated to narcotics.
James grew up near the Boston area, and up until 2005, he had a steady income. He had worked as a file clerk for nearly 13 years at the Boston municipal court system. But unfortunately, James and his boss got into an argument which ultimately led to him losing his job.
The reason why he was unable to find a new career was that James sadly suffered from Meniere's disease. This affected his inner ear and caused symptoms similar to vertigo. Along with his ear illness, James also had a speech disorder, that he described as a stutter.
It was hard for him to be able to talk to others, which made it hard to keep a job. These ailments, unfortunately, caused James to have to get support for others. The only problem was that he never wanted to be a burden to his family. So, he spent 8 years on the cold streets of Boston, fending for himself.
His Positive Perspective
Despite his disabilities, James never let his illnesses shift his outlook on life. Instead, he actually took those disadvantages and turned them into advantages. For example, he didn't view his speech impediment as a drawback because to him listening was more crucial than talking.
Because he had struggled to speak, he was always required to be a great listener. Shifting his perspective into a positive majority helped James get through life since he didn't let the bad things bring him down. The resilient man always had a beneficial viewpoint, which eventually helped him make a favorable decision.
His Daily Routine
James's days were usually spent outside of a shopping center near the city of Boston because he sadly had no place to call home. He sat against the wall of the building and attempted to get help from strangers by asking those who passed by him if they were willing to spare some loose change.
He usually got by doing laundry or paying for transportation by panhandling. "It's just nice to have some money in one's pocket so that as a homeless man I don't feel absolutely broke all the time," he confessed. And to eat, James was given food stamps from the government, or he went to nearby shelters.
The Mysterious Bag
Because Glen usually searched for left behind items like clothes or bottles he could recycle for money, he was always looking down at the ground. One day, as the homeless man was going about his typical routine, he spotted something he hadn't seen before.
To further investigate what the item was, James got up from where he was sitting to get a closer look. Eventually, he realized it was an abandoned bag. He got excited, thinking maybe there could be something inside the black bag that would be beneficial for him to have, so he opened it. But what he found inside surprised James.
Searching for Winter Essentials
James had hoped that by searching in this lost bag, he would get lucky and find many crucial things that he needed. Usually, he was able to acquire left behind sweatshirts that had fallen off of someone's waist or old coats left behind by forgetful individuals.
As a vagrant in Boston, it was necessary for James to have these pieces. More specifically, for nights when the temperatures were extremely low. The homeless man often needed to keep warm on those cold winter nights with things he found around the city.
A Closer Look Inside
At first glance, James had decided he would keep the black duffel. It could come in handy for him, as it was big enough to store nearly all of his belongings. Now all he needed to do was finally open it to reveal the mystery contents that were inside.
The drifter had hoped to find items he could keep, but what was really inside surprised James more than he could have imagined. Little did James know that what he would discover hiding inside the abandoned duffel bag would completely change his life forever.
The Large Amount of Cash
When James unzipped the bag, he was in disbelief at what he was seeing. The duffle bag contained a ton of money, it was stuffed with cash! There were numerous stacks of green bills everywhere. Altogether there were $2,400 dollars - all made up from one-hundred-dollar bills.
This discovery had the potential to change James' life. That amount of dough could have helped him find a way off the streets and hopefully get his life in order, especially since it was all cash. But James had a different idea in mind, one that still ended up changing his life.
More Lucky Discoveries
The abundance of cash wasn't the only thing James uncovered from the lost bag. The duffel also contained multiple traveler's checks, enough to reach up to $40,000. It was like winning the lottery for James! It seemed like his luck was at an all-time high that day.
At the time, in 2013, James would have been able to cash those checks himself. If this had happened today, he wouldn't have had as much fortune. Today, there have been stricter security measures put in place. After making his prosperous discovery, James had to decide what to do next.
Getting Police Involved
Instead of keeping his discovery a secret and taking the money, James tried to find a police officer after a few hours of locating the bag. He noticed a police car patrolling the area near the Dorchester South Bay mall, which was where he often spent his days.
Once he got the local officer's attention, he explained to them what had happened. He told law enforcement how he had seen a bag without an owner, so he decided to open it. James continued revealing to them how much money had been inside the duffel, along with the personal identification documents.
Doing The Noble Thing
Unfortunately, that was all the information that James had to offer the police. He had no other way of helping them track the real owner of the bag. All he was able to give them was his own name and the address of a local shelter that he often stayed at.
The officers were in complete disbelief at what they were hearing. Was a homeless man really turning in a bag he found with loads of money inside? Why didn't he just keep it since no one would know he was the one who took it? Although his noble actions surprised the police, James didn't think twice about his choice.
Finding the Real Owner
The law enforcement officers were now in possession of the bag and its contents - but how would they find the rightful owner? Lucky enough, earlier that day, the Boston police department had received word from a shopping mall employee that a man had accidentally left a bag of cash behind.
The person who contacted the police, Jason Bourne, was unsure where the bag with the money could be, so he turned to the authorities. They soon discovered that the owner who forgot his duffel was a foreign exchange student who was attending university nearby.
He Caught People's Attention
Because of James' noble deed, he was able to help the real owner of the bag get his stuff back. It was a true act of moral decency from the homeless man. The money he found could have been a massive opportunity - but instead, he chose to do the right thing. He didn't know how much his decision would, later on, help him out.
After the foreign exchange student was reconnected with his belongings, the story started to trend around town - and eventually through the media. The narrative that a vagrant would return more than $40,000 had people stunned. James's good deed didn't go unnoticed.
One person who took an interest in James and his kindness was Edward Davis, the Boston Police Commissioner. He felt like he needed to do something special for the man who had done an extraordinary thing. Davis didn't want this incredible story to dwindle.
So he decided to hold a special ceremony dedicated to James, where he could be honored with a plaque. The special event received loads of media attention, and many officers from the Boston Police Department were there at the Boston Police headquarters to give James a round of applause for his generosity.
Of course, James had shown up to the ceremony in person to receive his plaque. But that was not all. He also wanted to show his appreciation, so the homeless man wrote a statement that he planned on reading out loud to all those who had attended. Despite his speech hindrance, he spoke in front of the audience.
In the heartfelt speech, James had explained that the thought of keeping even one penny from the bag hadn't even crossed his mind. Proving that he was the right man to receive the honorary plaque, James continued to thank all the citizens of Boston who had ever given him spare change throughout the years.
Glen's letter touched the hearts of many, and with all the media outlets in the room filming the ceremony, it was in no time at all that his story had started to gain mass attention. Soon, it became viral. No one could foresee what was about to happen next to James and his life.
The story had reached a special man in Virginia. He thought that while it was nice that the Boston police had appreciated James' deed, he felt like he needed to do more. Ethan Whittington knew there weren't many people out there who would do what the homeless man had done. So he decided to do something to thank him.
The Online Campaign
It was difficult for Whittington to think that the sweet man with a good heart was left to return back to the freezing streets of Boston. How could that be fair? That's when the marketing executive thought of a plan on how he could give James a life-changing reward.
The stranger who had never even met James before set up an online fundraiser to get others to help raise money for the vagrant. Hopefully, if they reached their goal of $50,000, James could maybe get a roof over his head. The campaign not only shared the story, but it was also receiving lots of donations each day.
A Public Figure
In no time at all, James' inspiring story was trending all over social media platforms and on many news channels across the country. And so was the GoFundMe fundraising campaign. Each day, they were getting closer and closer to the goal that Whittington had set up for the good samaritan.
In a matter of two days after creating the money-raising page, more than three thousand individuals had given money to the good cause. But the strangers weren't just helping provide the vagrant with the potential of a better life - they were also thanking and appreciating him for what he had done.
Reaching Their Goals
After 48 hours, the donations had completely surpassed the original goal of $50,000 dollars. When Whittington checked the camping page, he was astounded at what he was looking at. The kindness had inspired so many people to contribute to the fundraiser that he had raised nearly $73,000 dollars for James.
The GoFundMe page was shared thousands of times, and it was filled with many kind-hearted messages from hundreds of people. Some even wrote to James specifically explaining how this story had made them become emotional and even made them believe in humanity again.
Impacting The World
James was taken aback by how much attention he was getting. He had no idea how returning a bag of money would completely change his life. After yet another two days had passed, the money kept coming in. At that point, the donations had reached $100,000!
And that was only four days after the fundraiser started. By the end of it, Whittington had raised $165,000. Both James and he were in disbelief at how many people it had reached and impacted. Many parents were even saying that they were using James and what he had done as a life lesson to teach their kids about kindness.
Whittington was so happy that he was able to contribute and help out James. It looked like the statement was true: what goes around comes around. 100% of all the money that was donated was about to make its way to James's pocket. Whittington made sure that those following the journey were continuously updated.
But while there were thousands and thousands of people sending in money and writing their thoughts, there was still one important person who was unaware that all of this was happening. James had no clue his story and his fundraising campaign were trending - meaning he didn't know what he was about to receive!
Meeting The Hero
Because James lived in Boston and Whittington was a resident of the state of Virginia, the two had never officially met. That was until the philanthropist was ready to take all the money from the GoFundMe page and finally go give it to its rightful owner.
Whittington made his way over to Boston, where he ultimately was able to see James face to face for the first time. He had explained to him what was going on and how his acts of kindness had inspired both him and thousands of others. James learned that he was about to come into a large sum of money.
Getting His Affairs In Order
Unfortunately there was one problem with the donations. Because James had spent nearly 8 years living on the streets, he had no permanent home address. And he also was not an owner of a bank account. This caused a few logistical issues for Whittington, as well as James.
They needed to figure out a way to take all the $165,000 dollars out of the GoFundMe page and somehow give it to James. But, without a checking account, it was next to impossible to just hand the vagrant that amount of cash. Luckily for James, Whittington was ready to do anything he could to help out the good samaritan.
Life Off The Streets
After spending so much time and energy trying to raise cash for James, Whittington wasn't going to give up so easily. He was determined to make sure that the homeless man was going to receive all the donations and that it was going to get him off the streets.
Sure enough, Whittington helped him set up all the necessary factors he needed to live a "normal" life - to also be able to finally get his money. He created James a bank account, secured health care, psychiatric care, found him subsidized housing, and helped him get disability checks.
Whittington knew that James was a good person, and he felt calm knowing that such a large sum of money was going to be handed over to someone who had no history of substance abuse. It was clear that James was just a victim of misfortune throughout his life.
But thanks to his kind heart, that was all about to change. The fundraiser wasn't the only thing that landed a hand to James. Many groups around the Boston area, more specifically New England, we're willing to give James their services for free - including the New England Dental Group. But James wasn't quite ready to say yes.
A New Life
After being awarded a large sum of money for his good deed and finally getting all of his affairs in order, James wrote a letter to all of his supporters who were following his journey. He explained how he was thinking about keeping all 12 of his remaining teeth as his trademark.
He also added that while he was doing okay, his eyeglasses were on the edge of their life. They were being held together by a small paper clip. After all James had been through, many were hoping that the kind-hearted man was now able to repair or buy new glasses.
A Special Honor
James continued his letter and discussed the events that led him to where he was now. After finding the bag with money, the vagrant didn't even have to ponder whether he would keep it or not. He knew what he needed to do, which was something that even financially stable individuals might not have done.
“Anyone who wouldn’t have turned in the money would have had to be sick in one way or another. I may look sick,” he revealed, “but I am a genius!” Perhaps indeed he was, because he eventually ended up with way more money and benefits than were in that duffle bag.
A Valuable Lesson
Although James' story is incredibly touching and charming, there is more to it than just that. His actions have inspired and encouraged many people around the nation to take part in greater acts of kindness. He has shown others that we should always treat strangers with respect.
It's a moral lesson that James has taught us. But it goes beyond generosity on a day-to-day level. James has opened the eyes of many people to the world of marginalized individuals. The way that our society has treated these communities shows us that perhaps we could do better as a united civilization.
James himself has spoken up on this issue. He has explained that putting a roof above one's head will not solve the homelessness problem in America. "There really isn't much difference between homeless and non-homeless people as we would like to think," he explained.
"But you would only find that out if you couldn't make rent and truly have nowhere to go but the streets," James said. No one can know what it is truly like to be in the position that Glen was in unless they themselves have been there. We're expecting nothing but great things from Mr. James moving forward...