John Ferber of Palm Beach County, Florida.
36, internet advertiser, Boynton Beach.
Nice home. Nice clothes. Seems like a nice guy.
Tonight was his turn in the ABC Secret Millionaire spotlight.
Where? The homeless capital of Skid Row in Los Angeles, California.
Ferber is a self-described “workaholic” and told us that he lost two good friends. It was that moment he realized he worked too much.
I guess we never know when that moment is going to hit.
But that’s when he decided he wanted to help others.
Ferber seemed anxious when he was on his way there…even the cab driver wasn’t too thrilled about the drive. The poverty and statistics are staggering, and John put himself right in the middle of it all.
Home to 15,000 homeless, John got his room with others on assistance.
How much money did he get? $55.00.
For six days.
John hit the street and met some hostility. He told some folks he was doing a documentary on volunteering. Not everyone wanted to talk. Some talked and said they need more help at the local shelters.
Ferber said he didn’t feel safe…threatened at times. He admitted it was hard to see the “desperation” around him.
He clearly wasn’t comfortable. Will that change for him?
On Ferber’s second day, he was still walking around as a secret millionaire. He met a man named “Amin” who hands out necessities to the people on the street. He owns a boutique called “Ariane.”
John said, “We all have too much,” and he told Ferber that he felt it was important to give some of it back.
Ferber found a park with folks playing basketball in a street league. He got involved in a 3 on 3 league game.
OG is the founder of the league. Apparently, his league has been an anchor for others trying to find some direction in a difficult place. It’s a trace of pride where it is needed most.
Ferber headed back to his apartment where he had a very small dinner — not big, not healthy — but dinner.
Ferber got to wondering about the women and children…good question. What do we do to serve families and children.
Ferber came across the Alexandria House — an organization to serve families. The founder of the long-term shelter is still there. Families can stay up to two years.
Services for women? Check. Teens? Check. Families? Check.
John met Madison, and her daughter Rene, a worker at the Alexandria House. At 17, she was homeless and ended up living with an abusive partner. She got to Alexandria House and found help.
That’s good to hear. And good to see she is giving back.
Isn’t that the real circle of life?
John had to walk back to his apartment at night. He described it as “terrifying.” It was clearly a new, and unpleasant, experience.
Four days down. Just a few left.
Ariane was the next stop…Amin’s boutique. They were going to make hygiene kits for the people on the street to stay clean.
Amin told his story. He moved into his RV and said he started to think about what it might be like if he had to live on the street. It triggered compassion within him.
We never know where compassion will come from, but does it matter? I don’t think so. The open heart is the key.
A man walked by with shoes covered in excrement. Amin took off his shoes and handed them over.
No questions. Just took ’em off and handed ’em over.
It’s shoes. But also not. It’s something bigger.
Ferber was blown away by that moment. I guarantee he will never, ever forget it. Our hearts can be opened by others’ deeds. That’s impressive and wonderful.
Back at Alexandria House, Judy was there again to greet him. John got right back in with the families and children and blended right in…playful and happy. It looked less like volunteering and more like just another day at the park.
Judy told John her funding was really suffering. In down times, needy places go needy. Simple math.
It was getting down to crunch time, and John wasn’t sure what to do about his donations. He went again to visit the 3 on 3 Collective. A volunteer, Crushow, took Ferber to the Skid Row Mural — an amazing painting showing the story and the pride of Skid Row.
Everyone has a history. Everyone has a story. Everyone needs to remember.
We are all somebody, no matter who, or where, we are.
Ferber talked about his idea of the streets and how it had changed…how he now saw these folks as people fighting every day to survive…with so little.
As he packed, he revealed again how hard the week had been. But then the time came to sit and write the checks — not out of a sense of tax write-offs, but out of a sense of compassion.
Is there a difference?
Maybe it is a big difference.
Ferber went first to Amin and his Ariane boutique. He revealed himself to Amin and presented him a check for $25,000 to further his mission. He also left him 200 sleeping bags to hand out to the folks on Skid Row.
If you can keep one body warm, you can keep a heart beating and a life going.
The next stop was the 3 on 3 basketball league. John revealed himself to the guys and presented a check for $25,000 to OG. Twenty-thousand was for a scholarship and $5,000 was for the league to use.
Ferber also mentioned the mural and said he would pay for the restoration of the mural.
A restoration of the history of a people.
OG called it a “blessing,” and I think that’s probably exactly what it was.
The last place was Alexandria House. He was clearly looking forward to it. He presented a check for $5,000 to Judy to divvy up between the nine women of the house. But then, he gave Judy $45,000 dollars for her charity to use at her discretion. He then provided a van full of toys and computers to the kids, which got the biggest reaction of all.
When you live on the kindness of others, you need to find others who are kind. John Ferber illustrated the importance of being kind.
If you think you know someone else’s situation, think again. What you know is your perception of it.
And, as we know, perceptions are often quite deceiving.