Standing in the freezing cold on the side of an Iowa road, Jonnie Wright wore a sign that asked passersby’s for money.
A businessman, Jonnie is neither homeless nor poor, but rather he had a heartwarming plan up his sleeve.
Whenever someone stopped to give him something, Jonnie handed over a gift of his own. It was an envelope with a letter, and either a $10 or a $100 bill inside.
The letter began:
Merry Christmas and thank you so much for your very kind and thoughtful donation!
I live in Des Moines but I am not homeless or destitute or without a job. Instead I am here to give thanks for the many blessings in my life by paying them forward and honoring you and others who give… Please take the money in this envelope and keep it, spend it, donate it, pay it forward, whatever your heart tells you to do.
Jonnie said he spent about four hours on Christmas Eve “panhandling”. In total, he says he gave out 50 envelopes (five of them with $100 bills and the rest stuffed with $10 bills) and collected $363.02, 3 pepperoni sandwiches, 2 donuts, 1 pack of M and M's, 1 apple and 1 pair of gloves.
Jonnie took the cash he collected, added hundreds of his own money, then donated $1,000 to the Bethel Mission, a men’s emergency shelter in Des Moines.
On Jonnie’s Facebook page, he wrote:
"Across those four hours, wearing inadequate clothing in 12 degree temps, shivering with head bowed, standing in front of strangers, afraid to look them in the eye and silently begging for their help I felt helpless and cold and humbled and ignored and broken -- and proud and grateful and thrilled and honored and loved. The power of human kindness and generosity carved a permanent place and space in my heart and I will never forget their loving faces and gentle touch as they placed their hard-earned money in my hand."
- Kelly Urich