It’s a sad, common sight in many cities: a homeless person, pushing around a cart of their few belongings. To our eyes, it never looks like much, or anything of value. But to them, it’s everything they have in the world.
Douglas Hall was one of those people, pushing his cart around Los Angeles, just trying to get by and maybe make enough money to get to New York. A former Marine, he had lost his leg in combat. He held a sign seeking donations—not a “hand out,” in his words, but a “hand up.”
Last year, Hall got the “hand up” of a lifetime, thanks to a fateful encounter with a stranger.
In the middle of a busy street, Hall collapsed and suffered a major health scare.
Luckily for him, one of the people on the street happened to be a good samaritan: a woman named Dana Lee Calabrese.
Calabrese called 911, and waited for paramedics to arrive.
An ambulance showed up to take Hall to the hospital.
But Calabrese noticed a problem. They weren’t taking Hall’s cart with him—all his belongings were just going to be left there on the street.
But when Calabrese pointed this out, she was shocked by the paramedic’s response.
“When I asked the first responders if they would be taking his belongings,” she recalled to ABC News. “One of them replied, ‘No, are you? A million more dominoes fall a day around here.'”
Calabrese understood how someone in that job could become desensitized—but the callousness still bothered her.
“I couldn’t stomach that response,” she said. “I just couldn’t bare this person losing what I believed to be all he had in the world.”
But since no one was interested in helping, she took matters into her own hands.
She took his cart full of belongings home with her.
She gave her phone number to the paramedics to give to Hall, hoping he would contact her to reclaim his things. But after a few days, she never got a response and began to worry.
So instead, she took to Facebook to share her story and track the man down.
“HELP ME FIND VETERAN DOUGLAS DEAN HALL!!!” she wrote in her post.
And amazingly, it worked. One of Calabrese’s neighbors found Hall on the street and recognized him from the post.
Calabrese was thrilled. “He was FOUND!!!” she wrote in a follow-up post. “The power of social media is real!”
The strangers finally contacted each other, and made plans to meet up. Meeting formally for the first time, Calabrese was charmed by Hall’s positive spirits.
“From our brief encounters thus far he seems like a really great guy,” Calabrese told ABC News.
“He looks like he has been through a lot in life and somehow maintains this really positive vibe about him. I am really looking forward to learning more about him.”
One of the things she learned—why he was so interested in getting to New York.
“He told me he has really good friends there,” Calabrese explained to ABC. “I think he just really misses it.”
So she decided to do him another kindness.
She set up a GoFundMe page to raise donations to send Hall to New York.
And in the end she raised four times her fundraising goal.
“I am actually quite overwhelmed by all of the support,” she told ABC. “I thought I would have enough to cover the ticket and maybe a little extra for the transition. But, there is quite a lot extra now.”
People even donated supplies for Hall’s trip.
She decided to surprise Hall with the good news at a restaurant on the same street he collapsed, bringing everything full circle, and proving that sometimes the best things can come from the worst situations.
And Calabrese got something out of it, too—a new friend.
“I believe we became immediate friends, and hopefully we will be friends for life,” she told ABC News. “I think I will always wonder and worry about him now.”
“I cannot even put into words how much happiness this has brought to me knowing that I am bringing happiness to him.”