How far would you go to a help a person in need? That’s a question at the heart of a WBUR radio series, Kind World, featuring stories of kindness and the profound effect an act can have. When Ron Jones, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, got to know a young couple who were struggling and learned about their background, he made the decision that money alone would not be enough to truly make a difference in their lives.
RON JONES: I met Samantha and Joe a few years back, they were regulars at a coffee house that I go to work in every now and then. But about a month or so ago, we decided to really just sort of have a night and hang out. And when I heard their story, I could see their trajectory.
SAMANTHA TURNER: I was diagnosed with a couple of mental disorders growing up. My parents got divorced and my dad said he didn’t want me anymore because of the issues with my mental disorders; he said I was a problem child.
I was working at McDonald’s. When I lost that job, my mom told me that I had 30 days to find another job or find another place to live. I didn’t have anywhere else to go. I asked her why she didn’t want me there anymore, she says, “Because I don’t want you anymore.” I lost it. I took a knife to my wrist over the kitchen sink.
JOSEPH ANDERS: Most of the traumatic experiences she’s dealt with, I’ve dealt with. I was a toddler in a homeless shelter with my mother and my father. My father wasn’t really much of a father towards me; he left 11 times during the time I was born to the time I was 18.
JONES: I could see in my mind that these would be the type of people who would get long term if not permanently plugged into the social work system. I had to do something. And so I said, “Do you want to stay in my house? If you do, you have to do certain things, because I want to see you grow, I want to see you be people who are contributing, who are living up to their potential.”
TURNER: I was very apprehensive. I was like, “Okay, is he for real? Or is this another one of those, you know, ‘I’m going to do this for as long as it benefits me and then whenever it doesn’t anymore I’m going to just drop you like old socks’?”
ANDERS: I’m like, “I’m up for it.”
TURNER: Every day we wake up early, which has never happened, and we do something every day to better our lives and he makes sure of that. So far I’ve applied for college and I’ve applied for multiple jobs. He’s helped us with our resume, which nobody has done. That was amazing. And, I mean, yeah, sometimes it’s tedious and sometimes it drives our emotions wild, but we feel it’s good for us, we feel that this is the right thing that we need.
JONES: I can maybe offer them a place that’s safe, so that they can change that trajectory or get off that bad path and get on a much more healthy path, for all the wonderful things that they have and that they do. I mean, Samantha’s very talented, as is Joe. But, you know, we’ve had our dropouts, we’ve had our learning moments.
TURNER: Yesterday, whenever you told us, you know, “Hey, get dressed, we’re going somewhere,” I was afraid that you were, like, going to take us a to homeless shelter, “It’s been nice seeing you, bye.” You know?
JONES: Oh God, oh my God. You don’t have anything to worry about on that front. So let that fear go.
TURNER: You know, this is the beginning of the rest of my life. I’m actually having a positive outlook on life, and I’m looking forward to different parts of the day—things that I’ll learn, things that I’ll do. I feel so much better, being here, than I have before.
ANDERS: Living here is completely different than anything we’ve ever known. We’re doing something with our lives.
JONES: What I hope will happen is that they’ll get their associate’s, they’ll go on and get, maybe, bachelor’s degrees, they’ll get jobs that they can make better than a basic wage. And at some point they might just say, “Ron, you know, we love you, we care about you, but we got to go.” I know I’ll be happy, not that they’re gone but because hopefully that will be the point when they feel like they believe they can do it. I’ve told them, I believe in them. I really do.