helping a homeless teenager

Finding The Spirit To Help A Homeless Teen

How one woman found lasting inspiration by going the extra mile

It was a hot day, and Laurel Lia was driving home from visiting her father north of Los Angeles, when she spotted a teenaged boy standing on a corner with a sign asking for help. “My son has always told me, because I give money to homeless people, ‘Mom, you have to look at their shoes. If their shoes are really ragged, then you know they’re homeless,'” she told Good Turns recently. “And this kid’s shoes were ripped, his t-shirt was ripped, he was dressed kind of raggedy and it was like 100 degrees and he was standing in the heat and he had this sign. Having kids that were even older than him, it really hit my heart.”

“I looked at him when I stopped at the stop sign. I could just see his eyes. And I kept going, I’m not proud to say,” she recalls. “I got through the intersection and that inner intuition just screamed at me, ‘No, turn around, you have to go back.'”

So she did. She circled around and pulled up next to the teen. When she suggested he get in her car, it touched off several hours of a rare good turn that left Lia grateful to be in a position to help, and the young man at least cleaner and better fed than when she’d first set eyes on him.

“There were no strings at all, just this freedom of giving and receiving”

“He wasn’t asking for a ride, but he got in my car and he was just the sweetest person,” she says. “I really believe that spirit came over me, because I have no idea how I actually did this.”

What Lia did that day was go out of her way to help someone who hadn’t even been asking for it. Their first stop was Target. “We shopped together and I could see he wasn’t used to even being in a store and having to decide what he wanted,” Lia recalls. “We got him long pants and shorts and underwear and t-shirts, and a backpack and some toiletries. It was like $175.”

“I asked him, ‘Do you think you could use a shower?’ I took him back to my condo and he took a shower. I put his clothes in the washer, and we went out to dinner, to the burger joint across the street.” It was there that Lia heard the young man’s tale.

“I found out that his mom was in a care facility, and his dad wasn’t in the picture. So this 19-year-old kid has no fallback plan. He had been in construction and had gotten fired one day because the site got shut down, and I think his sign was that he was looking for work. He was living in a church three days a week, and living with different friends. He was really trying not to be a burden, and he was still trying to visit his mom.”

“He wasn’t resentful. He wasn’t angry. He was just nice,” Lia says. “So I bought him food and we went back and picked up his clothes that had been in the dryer, and I stuck $20 and a few granola bars in his backpack when he wasn’t looking.” Lia drove him to meet some friends near where she’d picked him up, and then never saw him again. But the effects of that day have lingered.

“I always remember that moment, and I wonder if he remembers that moment,” she says. “I just hope that it said something to him about his own personal worth, that he’s worth it. I tried to tell him that, and how courageous I thought he was. And he said, ‘I don’t even really know how to thank you.’ But there were no strings at all, just this freedom of giving and receiving.”

“It’s a situation you can’t dream up, you can’t create. I was really in a hard time in my life, my dad was ill, it was just a really difficult time, and he just infused something that I don’t have words for,” Lia says. “I didn’t understand that this would inspire me forever.” As Lia’s good turn has inspired us, and, hopefully, all of you.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Never Edit

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