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Homeless Man's Act of Kindness Caught on Video as He Helps Grateful Commuters Get Out of Flooding Subway

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Most of the homeless community operates in the shadows. Panhandlers are used to the darting looks and the averted gazes

The nicer the weather and the more populated the city, the larger the homeless community. New York City may not have the mildest weather, but according to the Coalition for the Homeless, it is still home to over 61,000 homeless people.

New York in mid-June was a rainy place. The hustle and bustle didn’t stop because of it, but there were quite a few commuters who were helped on their way thanks to a homeless man who is a regular in the area.

Zahir McDonald generally stands in the subway station, a cup in his outstretched hand, asking for money, but on this particular Thursday, at the Williamsburg Bedford Avenue station, he paid it forward.

“When I came in, from the turnstile to the steps, it was like ankle deep in the water,” he told WCBS-TV.

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“I usually come here to panhandle. So I figured I couldn’t do that with all this water in the way, that would’ve been selfish of me.”

Seeing that he could do something in this situation to better the lives of the people who often helped him, he got to work.

“These people help me every day, I got to do something about it, so went outside and got a bucket started scooping the water up,” McDonald said.

“People was still coming through so I found a stick and put it down in the water for them to walk over.”

The piece of wood McDonald found functioned as a small bridge over a deep puddle at the bottom of the stairway.

Some brave souls took matters into their own hands and simply leapt across the water, while others slogged through the puddle without seeming to care.

But others hesitated. Some were too frail to leap, some were wearing heels or sandals and the water could’ve ruined them. For those poor souls, McDonald was ready and waiting, offering his arm so they could steady themselves.

Jen Winston saw what McDonald was doing and began to film the interactions. McDonald’s small but much-appreciated act of kindness was soon circulating online, sparking a response he probably did not expect.

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“A few people stopped to watch to admire what a kind New York moment this was,” Winston said. “I sort of reached out and told my friends, and then I posted the video.”

“Here’s a beautiful New York moment I happened to witness today,” she wrote on Instagram, along with three short clips. “This man helping so many strangers jump across a massive puddle in the subway station.”

Winston then took it a step further, setting up a GoFundMe for McDonald, who has been jobless since 2014, when he lost his telemarketing position.

“It’s important that we can back up the ‘Likes’ we throw around on social media,” she said in an interview with WCBS-TV. “If we can turn it into substantial and affect his life, it would be awesome, he affected all our lives.”

As of Friday morning, she has managed to raise over $5,000 for the homeless man, who says he doesn’t quite know what to do with it yet.

“I’m happy, I really appreciate that,” he said. “No one has ever done something like that to me before.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking