A Homeless Man With Nowhere to go Asks For Someone to Share Thanksgiving With Him — He Gets Hundreds of Responses
Here’s how strangers helped ignite a community of good news.
What started out as a cry for help through an online ad, turned into a miracle for a homeless man who was looking for companionship.
Neal Shytles wrote a lonely plea days before the American holiday: “Large, 54 y.o., Christian, homeless male is looking for a person, family, or couple to share Thanksgiving day with,” wrote Neal Shytles.
He had spent the holiday before at a shelter but this time, a stranger would change his life.
How a Homeless Man’s Cry For Help on Thanksgiving Turned His Life Around
Shytles says Thanksgiving dinners at shelters are all the same. While still surrounded by almost 200 people, “you sit down, you eat, you get up and leave.”
The 54-year-old admits that “every day of the year is pretty much lonely for me,” but acknowledged Christmas and Thanksgiving is the “worst time to be alone.”
After sending out his online ad, a stranger named Ashley McLemore offered to take him to her family’s home in Newport News, Virginia for the holidays.
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Shytles said he burst into tears after receiving the invitation and showing up for dinner. So too did Ashley.
But Shytles’ story doesn’t end there.
His story (and the McLemore’s caring nature) started making its rounds across Virginia and the loving initiative became contagious.
Citizens of Virginia started sharing Shytles’ story and helping others became a theme for the holidays — as it should.
People started offering jobs to Shytles (a former taxi driver). Long-lost cousins of the 54-year-old began to reach out and visit. Ashley’s husband, Cory McLemore, and some of his colleagues pooled $500 to give to the homeless man. Shytles spent some of the cash on new clothes for the Thanksgiving dinner.
How Shytles Positivity Helped to Pay It Forward For Other Homeless People
Even after generating an amount of attention, Shytles switched his focus to the 350 members of his shelter.
He said people have specific stereotypes of homeless people and admitted that “many of them are good guys.” While speaking to reporters, he said “even though they have nothing, they’d give you the shirts off their back.”
Because of Shytles, families across Virginia started taking in other members of the Union Mission Ministries shelter for Thanksgiving meals.
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When Shytles pointed out the number of men who were sleeping on tiled floors inside the shelter, strangers began donating blankets and pillows.
Ashley, a 30-year-old English teacher, said the “good vibes” even resonated with her students. She said she walked into her classroom one morning to find her desk piled high with blankets. One of her seventh-grade students brought in the comforter from his own bed.
And the happy contagion continued to spread even more.
Member of the Virginia county created a Facebook page encouraging people to send Shytles cards and notes to keep him company. “He wanted that family atmosphere,” says a Facebook group member. “I just really wanted to do something for him that way, so he could know people care about him, even though we don’t know him.”
Within hours, the Facebook group had grown to more than 4,000 members. People said they had seen Shytles’ story and began donating to their local shelters.
Shytles said he had received messages from the United Kingdom, Fiji, Spain, Australia, and Malaysia. He said a woman from Sweden told him he had inspired her to take a job helping homeless people.
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“I’ve never felt so loved in my life before,” Shytles said. “I think people really want to give and they don’t know how to give. They’re waiting for someone to ask.”
McLemore said seeing people help one another resonates with everyone. “People need some good news,” she said. She admits the Thanksgiving dinner itself was a lot of fun and was full of talking, laughter, and turkey — obviously.
“It’s been a really wonderful day,” she said. “We’re so blessed. He’s part of our family now.”
Who knows where a little bit of kindness can take you during the holidays? Why not give it a go?