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She snapped at a man on the street asking for money. His response moved her to tears

Laura Eshelman's interaction with a man on the street more than a decade ago has stuck with her.
Alex C Baker
Laura Eshelman's interaction with a man on the street more than a decade ago has stuck with her.

This story is part of the My Unsung Hero series, from the Hidden Brain team. It features stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression on someone else.


In 2012, Laura Eshelman was in the middle of a mental health spiral. The love of her life had just dumped her, and she was struggling with an eating disorder. And to top it off, she was having trouble finding work.

"I was leaving a downtown business where I had yet another job application rejected. I was feeling pretty down and decided to go to the Whole Foods across the street," Eshelman said.

As she crossed the street, Eshelman noticed a man asking for money on the corner. His unkempt hair and clothing made it seem like he'd been living outside for a while. She watched as he asked a passerby for change, but was ignored.

"And as I approached, he turned his attention to me, and again asked if he could have a little bit of money. I don't remember what my response was to him, and I'm glad that I don't remember. Because what I do recall is that whatever I said was very unkind and harsh. Something to the tune of, 'Leave me the hell alone. I don't have anything to give you. Just bug off.'"

Eshelman continued into the grocery store. But as she perused the aisles, she noticed herself feeling distracted and rattled.

"I couldn't quite put my finger on it until the realization of how rude and awful I had been to this person hit me like an anvil," Eshelman said. "I remember thinking, 'What the hell have you become? Who are you?'"

Eshelman left her groceries behind and rushed outside to find the man, who was still on the street corner.

"I hustled over to him, began apologizing profusely, and dug out some change that had, of course, been at the bottom of my pocket the whole time," Eshelman said.

As she handed him the change, the man took her hand in both of his. She remembers them as large and rough.

"And he just said, 'It's gonna be OK.' And for the first time in a long time, I felt like somebody was seeing my own pain, and I started to cry."

Eshelman and the man stood together for a few moments before parting ways. She never saw him again.

"If he were here right now, I would love to be able to tell him that that moment on the street was one of few glimmers in that extremely dark period of my life."


Listen to All Things Considered each day here or on your local member station for more stories like this.


My Unsung Hero is also a podcast — new episodes are released every Tuesday. To share the story of your unsung hero with the Hidden Brain team, record a voice memo on your phone and send it to myunsunghero@hiddenbrain.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ryan Katz
Autumn Barnes