A few dollars feeds a community, bellies and souls.

Adam Kightlinger plays guitar. And sometimes, like many musicians, he does some busking. Such was the case one sunny afternoon when Adam took his guitar out on a street in San Diego, California.

“The music was flowing, my voice was strong and the sunshine came out quickly,” he remembers. It was a good day by Adam’s standards. He loved to share his music, but that day, he didn’t know just how much his music would make a difference in so many people’s lives.

People strolled by Adam, some stopping to listen for a few minutes, often leaving with a smile on their faces. Some left a dollar or two in his guitar case. Adam noticed three homeless men sitting on the grass across from him. They were listening, too.

They encouraged him with friendly smiles and even a thumbs-up. While people came and went, those men were his constant audience.

A Hungry Man Approaches Adam

Then, one of the men walked up to Adam and asked if he could have one of the dollars in the guitar case. He was hungry and wanted to buy a sandwich. Adam looked down at his guitar case overflowing with dollar bills. He thought there was probably over $60 in it. 

He looked up at the homeless man and told him to take it all.

The man’s name was Michael Briggs. Stunned by Adam’s generosity, Michael started to cry. Adam had been out there all morning playing for passersby. Why would he give Michael all the money he had earned?

For Adam, it was simple: “You are hungry, and in a few hours, you are going to be hungry again, so you’ll need some extra cash to get a big meal.”

To Adam’s surprise, Michael took a single dollar bill from the case and left. Shortly after, he was back. This time he had a friend with him, another homeless man named Stanley. Stanley asked humbly for three dollars. 

Adam repeated his offer: Take it all. But he wondered why Michael hadn’t taken it all in the first place. He was clearly in need of some cash.

“I know folks who need this more than me,” he told Adam. And that’s why he had brought Stanley back with him. “Because you’re a good man and wanted to help me, it’s only right that I do what you did and help someone else.”

Paying It Forward

Adam was touched. He thanked them for being so supportive of his music and again invited Stanley to take it all. Stanley accepted—but not for himself. He and Michael would distribute the money among the homeless community in the area.

Adam was introduced to several of the homeless men and women. He was saddened to learn that every single one was a Navy, Marines, Army or Air Force veteran who had served their country for 10 to 25 years. One of them had been shot in the back several times while rescuing multiple people during his time in the Army.

Michael was one of the lucky ones. His son paid for his single-room apartment. Michael, always conscious of the well-being of those around him, invited the others to stay in that single room with him overnight. Sleeping on the floor in that tiny apartment was better than sleeping on the streets. The men and women, a group of about 10 veterans, tried their best to take care of each other.

Unbeknownst to Adam, a passerby had overheard the story. His name was Jeremy, and he was in awe of the way that Adam’s simple act of kindness had set off a chain reaction in the community. A guitar case full of one dollar bills was enough to inspire generosity among a dozen people.

The Ripple Effect of Kindness

Jeremy was inspired, too. He approached Adam and told him that he deserved to be taken care of, too. With that, he gave the musician $30 and walked away. 

The whole experience was so meaningful for Adam that he created a post on Facebook to witness to his gratitude. 

“I am so provided for,” he recognized. “I have everything I need, and yes, I am human and go through some challenges from time to time. But really, I am so provided for and have a beautiful opportunity to give and change lives when I sing and share what I love to do.”

In his post, Adam not only thanked those who serve their country in the military but also those who “serve one another every day, helping each other smile.” It is indeed through these small acts of kindness that we spread love and make a difference in our communities.