Homeless man helps stranded strangers in Colorado: Why do such ‘acts of kindness’ surprise us?

After a snowstorm hit Colorado, one homeless man pushed strangers' cars for three hours. Why is his story so surprising?

Courtesy KOAA News
Shelby Hudgens helped stranded cars get over a snowy hill during a Colorado storm this weekend.

Last weekend, a snowstorm hit the Colorado Springs area, bringing with it fresh powder and adverse travel conditions. It also gave one man an opportunity to help his community.

Shelby Hudgens and his dog, Blackjack, have been homeless and living in their old blue muscle car since their house caught fire in November. Upon seeing multiple drivers getting stuck in the snow, Mr. Hudgens lent a helping hand. It seemed like once he started, he did not stop: He spent the next three hours pushing car after car up over a hill, ensuring drivers made it safely home.

“I wouldn’t want to just be stuck there, spinning my tires. So anytime anyone wants to lend a hand, it’s always good. It’s just going to make the world a better place,” Hudgens told KOAA News.

As more drivers noticed Hudgens’s acts of kindness, they began offering him food. Then, a stranger named Sarah Webster saw his story on KOAA News and set up a GoFundMe page to help the man get back on his feet. Since the page launched, it has raised almost $2,000. He then received a job offer from another viewer.

Stories like this are not totally uncommon. In December, one homeless man offered to give 22-year-old Dominique Harrison-Bentzen his last £3 to pay for her cab ride home. She then turned around and raised over £32,000 to sponsor the kind man after he so selflessly tried to help her.

In September 2013, homeless Bostonian Glen James found a backpack with over $40,000 in it. He returned it to the police, much to the surprise of others. Ethan Whittington started a fundraising page for Mr. James, and soon raised over $150,000.

"The fact that he's in the situation he is, being homeless, it blew my mind that he would do this (turn in the backpack)," said Mr. Whittington, reported The Christian Science Monitor in a previous story.

Why do stories of random acts of kindness, especially by those in difficult financial situations, surprise us?

When “act of kindness” stories go viral, it is often because of their randomness or a surprising element. Viewers share these stories and become hopeful that others will behave in a similar manner. However, some cynics claim that such stories “enable people to feel good about the world without having to go to the trouble of acting themselves.” In the case of Hudgens, the fact that he was alone in assisting others did not go unnoticed.

“I wish that everyone would notice people in need and be able to help them so freely,” Ms. Webster told KOAA News. “There’s a lot of people out there that have more than he has and choose not to help.”

One Storify user who goes by the username Ladyonaboat addressed the issue, pointing out that many homeless individuals are generous.

“It says more about us as human beings that we assume that the homeless are more likely to be less humane than those with homes. This attitude makes the assumption that the poor some how deserve the poverty that they find themselves in when this is clearly not the case most of the time.”

As for Hudgens, he is thankful for what people are doing to support him after his story went viral. However, for him, it was just about doing the right thing, regardless of his living situation.

“I’d rather make the world a better place. It’s not all about me and I’ve got enough to get by,” he said.

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