How Cool Is That?

Posted: May 6, 2008 in Compassion, Goals, Homelessness, Money, Morality

Several months back I found myself receiving almost daily emails from a gentleman named Carl. The emails he’d send contained links to news articles about homelessness from various news sources through out the nation. When I inquired how he was coming up with all of these links, he wrote back saying that he was getting them through custom "news alerts" via the Internet.

I wanted to slap myself on the forehead for not thinking about signing up for news alerts – but better late than never, right? So I signed up and started receiving these alerts sent directly to my email account.

There is one that I received a couple of days ago which really is one of those stories that makes you say to yourself: "Now, how cool is that?"  

The article, In from the cold — and 2 lives are changed, is from Sunday’s edition of the Chicago Sun-Times.

The two lives that were changed are those of Pete Kadens, a Chicago area entrepreneur and Troy McCullough, one of the Chicago’s homeless.

On early Saturday morning, April 26, Mr. Kadens was sitting his vehicle around 6:45 AM waiting for a business conference when he noticed a man across the street standing outside, waiting in the cold in front of the StreetWise offices – a newspaper that is sold by the local homeless.

Mr. Kadens went over to where Mr. McCullough was standing and invited him to wait in his vehicle until the StreetWise opened for business. While they waited, they began to talk and the story of how and why McCullough had found himself homeless unfolded. Kadens, moved by what he had heard offered to help McCullough and told him that if he wanted the help to the meet him again the following morning about the same time.

The following morning, McCullough, in a suit and tie, was already waiting when Kadens showed up. After another conversation, Kadens gave McCullough $200. Kadens however knew that it would take a lot more than $200 to provide McCullough with the type of help he needed to get off the street. So, Kadens went home that day, started a website (, and sent out 50 emails to friends and business associates asking their help to raise $10,300 to help McCullough.

The response was more than what Mr. Kadens had thought it would be. In a week’s time, the site had raised $15,000 and an additional $20,000 worth of donated items and services.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Kadens’ has left the web site up and running and will be taking the "surplus" funds that continue to come into the site and place them into a non-profit fund to help additional homeless persons.

What caught my attention is an insight that Mr. Kadens gained while talking with Mr. McCullough,

"… that every one of us is only a few bad breaks from being like Troy."

I wonder…

What if Mr. Kadens’ had viewed Mr. McCullough as just another homeless person? What if he would have pretended not to notice the "homeless man" just standing there? What if he hadn’t allowed his heart to guide him and make a gesture of compassion?

The result is that both of these men would have missed out on something wonderful; something that was life changing for the both of them; something that actually enriched them as people.

What also intrigues me about this story is that it occurred on a weekend: a Saturday and a Sunday. Two days which are traditionally days of worship for followers of various religious beliefs. It seems fitting that something wonderful; something miraculous occurred on a weekend: two lives were changed from the inside out.

Let me quote directly from the website that Mr. Kadens’ set up:

So… I gave Troy $200. To say he was thankful was an understatement. His eyes welled with tears. He said he had been praying every day for a savior, and I was it.

The reality was that I am not a savior because $200 won’t get Troy all that far. It will take a community to help Troy.

Throughout our nation, there are other homeless people, much the same as Mr. McCullough, who all they need is an open door of opportunity to walk through. They need more than what little they are able to obtain through homeless support service organizations. What they need is our compassion; our willingness to directly intervene in their lives.

It seems strange to me that we don’t want the homeless out on the streets panhandling, or standing on the corner holding a cardboard sign, but we’re reluctant to press our elected officials to enact legislation that provides genuine and effective methods for the homeless to raise their standards of living.

We talk about how something needs to be done to reduce the numbers of homeless in our communities. But, we ourselves don’t want to be the ones who have to roll up our sleeves and get "down and dirty."

Business owners are quick to file complaints with local law enforcement if a homeless person is "hanging out" in front of their establishment. But, they are slow to offer the homeless person a few dollars to do something as simple as sweep the sidewalk in front of their businesses.

Cities are quick to adopt and enact ordinances which penalize the homeless for sleeping in doorways, behind buildings, vacant lots or other public places at night, but are lethargic when it comes to providing adequate funding to homeless support service agencies.

If we genuinely want to reduce the numbers of homeless in our communities, then we are going to have to do more than talk about it. We, the community, are going to have to be like Mr. Kadens and become doers. If we wait on our elected officials to do the right thing with regards to homelessness, well… let me put is this way: let’s not hold our breaths.

Mr. Kadens’ hit the nail right on the head.

It will take the community to help.

  1. AnAmerican says:

    You are right about this story you shared~WAY COOL!!!

  2. Bill says:

    great story. thanks for showing that some of us care about the homeless.

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