In society, sometimes people who cannot take care of themselves can fall through the gaps of our social safety net. And when they do, these people often find themselves trapped in a never-ending cycle of intense poverty that seems impossible to escape.
15-year-old Kentucky resident, Dean Brewer, lived with this kind of debilitating poverty during his early childhood. He vividly remembered times when the only thing in his refrigerator would have been a bottle of Big Red, a kind of soda. He recalled the times he would sleep on his friend’s floors or couches just so he could get something to eat.
The experience changed him and helped shape the way he viewed the world. And when he saw a homeless woman laying on the side of a McDonald’s parking lot last week, her suffering was a little too familiar for the young Dean, and he knew immediately that he had to do something to help her.
Dean’s early childhood with his mother was tough by anyone’s definition.
“I came from a one-bedroom apartment living with my mom, and she couldn’t pay for much,” Dean told WDRB.
Dean and his mother were so afflicted by poverty that Dean had very little to eat. At times, he survived on the compassion of others. Yet, despite the boy’s poverty, he never lost his sense of deep respect and gratitude.
“They all cared for me, because their parents said that I respected them,” Dean told WDRB.
But that all would change when Dean got a second chance at life. When he got a little older, he moved out to Jefferson County, in Louisville, KY, to live with his father.
For the first time in his whole life, Dean was able to experience a life that was not dictated by the crushing poverty of his youth.
“I have my own room,” Dean told WDRB. “That makes me feel great.”
The industrious young man was not satisfied with those creature comforts, though. Once he moved in with his father, he even started his own business selling T-shirts to make a little extra pocket money.
But one Friday, while out with a friend, he saw a sight that stopped him dead in his tracks and reminded him of the more difficult period of his life.
A homeless woman was lying on grass at a local McDonald’s.
“I couldn’t just walk by,” Dean told WDRB.
The woman was 61-year-old Gloria Plunkett. She had been on the streets for 23 years, a victim of Kentucky’s broken mental health care system. According to WDRB, she had a total of 66 criminal cases, but most had been dismissed due to her “incompetence to stand trial.”
Though Dean could not change the world, he resolved to make an impact in Gloria Plunkett’s life.
For the past two decades, Plunkett’s life entailed bouncing in and out of jail — there seemed to be no hope, and no help was forthcoming. Her plight hit a little too close to home for Dean, and although he could not change her life, he knew he had to do something to alleviate her suffering.
“She said she wanted a cheeseburger with no onions and a sweet tea, so me and Alex walked in there, and I bought it for her and took it back out and gave it to her,” Dean told WDRB.
Plunkett was ecstatic. She had been hungry and was grateful to the boys for their kind act. In the video they recorded, she can be heard emphatically saying “thank you” to the boys as they presented her with the food.
After the exchange was over, Dean and his friend’s posted the encounter onto social media, where the video has gone viral.
Amazingly, Dean’s act of kindness inspired others to do the same, and Plunkett soon had other visitors offering her food and help.
Dean feels the trials he has had to go through as a child changed him.
“The main reason I helped her is because we know the world is not to great right now, arguing and fighting and stuff like that,” Dean told WDRB. “Some people can’t provide for themselves. You have to help them out and make things positive and be grateful for what you have.”
Dean is a true hero, maybe not in the traditional sense of the word, but because his example inspired a wave of kindness that hopefully will change the world.