Dr. Hollie Black, 33, of Tulsa, Okla., had her car robbed and a homeless man named Rayburn West found and returned her important medical documents when he found them in the street. (Courtesy Luke Black)
Monday, August 26, 2013
A homeless man's act of kindness posted on Reddit has led to an outpouring of support for the man and a shelter he goes to in Tulsa, Okla.
When Dr. Hollie Black and her husband, Luke Black, left a restaurant after a family dinner on Aug. 20 and opened the door to their car, they realized immediately that they had been robbed.
"Everything was just strewn about, and it was chaos in there," Luke Black, 33, told ABCNews.com. The couple found a flathead screwdriver on the floor and realized it had been used to break the locks.
Hollie Black, a third year ob/gyn resident, had left her doctor's bag in the car, as she had rushed to the dinner straight from work. In addition to an iPad, iPhone and her wallet, the bag contained medical paperwork, research and a log book of all the cases she'd worked on through her residency. The bag was gone.
"I can replace my phone, iPad, wallet and cancel my credi cards, but that stuff ... those are the things that I really couldn't replace," Hollie Black told ABCNews.com.
"We didn't figure we'd ever see any of her stuff again," her husband said.
The couple reported the theft to police and even drove around the neighborhood looking in Dumpsters in the hope that whoever had stolen the valuables might have dumped the paperwork, but no such luck.
A few days later, the couple was at the Department of Motor Vehicles trying to get a new driver's license for the doctor when the phone rang.
"It's this guy and he's like, 'Hey, I go around and gather scrap metal and I was in downtown Tulsa gathering up cans when I found a ton of paperwork just strewn about everywhere,'" Luke Black said.
"He took the time to gather it all up and put it in a plastic sack, and I guess he found her name and phone number in a little journal she had," he said.
The couple went to meet the man in the rain. He was wearing an Army sweatshirt and pushing a grocery cart with a tarp over it. He was homeless.
"He was a super nice guy and didn't ask for anything," Luke Black said. "He just wanted us to know that he found all the stuff. He gave us everything."
"It took him a lot of time to pick up all that stuff," Hollie Black said. "It was just the best thing ever for me to get things back that I knew would be really hard for me to replace. I was so thrilled that he went and took the time to do that. He was so nice and didn't ask for anything in return."
"He really restored my faith in people," she said.
Black said they gave the man all the money they had with them at the time, which was about $15. The man thanked them and left without the Blacks getting his name. Before he left, Black snapped a photo of his wife with the man, planning at the time to show his mother a photo of the kind stranger.
Luke Black ended up posting the photo on Reddit with the caption "This homeless man found a bunch of my wife's stolen property strewn all over downtown Tulsa. He took the time to gather it all up in the rain and call us for retrieval. I just want to recognize him as an awesome human being."
Within hours the post was on the front page of Reddit, and in less than a week, it had been "upvoted" -- the Reddit equivalent of a Facebook like -- nearly 60,000 times.
As people began to comment on the photo, someone wrote that he had seen the man at the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless and, soon enough, the Good Samaritan had been identified as Rayburn West.
People touched by the post began to make donations to the homeless center, sending messages of support for Rayburn.
"I particularly like the way this happened too," one person wrote on Reddit. "One act of kindness, with no anticipation of reward, ends up accomplishing something that is a reward in its own right."
Another person wrote about ordering 144 individually packaged toothbrushes for the center, and others wanted to drop off donations.
"It came as a little bit of a surprise to us when we started hearing about the post," Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless Executive Director Sandra Lewis told ABCNews.com today. "We've received over $400 in contributions for the program, which is pretty spectacular."
Lewis said that she recognized West when she saw him on TV. The support has come from all over the world, including donations from the U.K. and Spain, she said.
"Isn't that amazing?" Lewis asked. "It was so wonderful to see a positive story about a homeless person and a positive attitude from people about a homeless person. So often the things that we hear are negative."
She hopes that West will come back to the shelter so that the staff can help him with housing or any other needs he might have.
"It is just kind of one of those pay it forward moments where one person does something really, really helpful and then that chain reaction of people wanting to follow suit," Lewis said. "I thought it was pretty amazing."