There are some people we come across in our lives that leave a lasting impression on us. Whether it’s the way they treated us, the way they carried themselves or all of the above some people can never be wiped from our memories.He had been living on the streets of Little Rock, Arkansas, for over a decade.
He became a familiar face to locals in the area, including married couple Jodi and Dawn Gieber.The pair would see James on their way into work – Dawn when she headed to the courthouse, and Jodi while he patrolled the streets. James had a bit of a bad rap for being unfriendly, but Dawn and Jodi knew this simply wasn’t true.
“People would say James was very angry. James was a mean person. He wasn’t. James was just hungry.
“He was cold. He was eating out of dumpsters. James just had no resources and my husband and I just felt that there was something we needed to do to help him.”
Reaching out to a stranger
One day, Dawn decided to stop and speak to James on her way into work.
So many of us walk past the homeless without even giving them eye contact, but Dawn wanted to show that she cared. She asked James how he had got to be homeless in the first place.
James admitted that he’d gone down a bad path, during which time he had lost contact with his family. He had no idea how he could find them now.
Helping another person
So Dawn decided to take things into her own hands. She went home and discussed with her husband what James had said to her. The pair searched on Google and began contacting people, calling, emailing and sending messages on social media.
Perhaps Dawn and Jodi never thought that they’d get a response – but not long later, they did. Dawn explained:
“It was right before Thanksgiving and we get a call back from his niece. They had been looking for him and thought he was dead.”
Tracking down his family
The truth was heart-wrenching: James’ family loved and cared for him, but had been unable to find him in their search, and had feared the worst.
Dawn explained to James’ niece that as a matter of fact, her uncle was alive and well, and had been looking for her for 15 years.
As proof that they weren’t lying to James’ niece, Dawn and Jodi arranged for James to speak to his family over the phone. They couldn’t believe how emotional James became during his conversation with his long lost relatives. And that’s when they realized that James needed to be properly reunited with his loved ones – in person.
But the couple hit a roadblock: James had several outstanding warrants that prevented him from leaving Little Rock. Determined to help James get back to where he belonged, Dawn stood before the court, explained James’ situation, and offered to pay the warrants off. The judge dismissed all charges and the case was closed.
The adventure could now begin. Dawn and Jodi packed up their car and set off with James on a 600-mile road trip to Illinois, his family’s hometown, but not before they bought him a set of new clothes and shoes for the occasion.
Dawn recorded James’ emotional reunion with his brother, who hugged him and slapped his back, and his niece, who sobbed as she held onto him.
James is now living in Wisconsin with his sister. The family sends Dawn and Jodi pictures of James enjoying his second chance at life, hanging Christmas lights and napping on the couch with the family dog.
Listening to others
The story of James’ family reunion has an important message: taking the time to listen can make a huge difference to somebody’s life. James seemed a little frightening to some of the Little Rock residents, but Dawn understood his cause for anger and frustration, and wanted to know how she could truly help him.
“We’re all the same. Just treat everbody with a little bit of respect. You know, things happen, and unfortunately, people end up homeless or in bad situations that they didn’t expect. Just remember, we’re all people.”
Thanks to Dawn, James is now enjoying his time with a family who thought he was dead. James’ brother said that Jodi and Dawn had truly brought their family back together.
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