One chance interaction between a homeless man and a young vlogger led to a heartwarming conversation, that soon became viral.
When 24-year-old vlogger Phillip Vu met 46-year-old Mike in New Haven, Connecticut, they had no idea they were about to change each others' lives. Mike, who had been homeless for most of his life, had initially offered to clean Phillip's car window, according to the Daily Mail. The vlogger had declined the offer but he did invite the middle-aged man for a meal and a chat. Sitting in Phillip's car, as temperatures dropped to -10C, they recorded their candid conversation, which tugged strangers' heartstrings when it was shared online.
Phillip, who had quit his job as a bank analyst to travel in his car, said: "I thought we were two sides from a different coin. We both came from struggling backgrounds and at some point I decided to reconnect with my family and he didn't - we saw commonalities until that split. I was like living my dreams, and he told me his dream was to go traveling one day. He's been fending for his life and trying to support his girlfriend and I'm living out my car for leisure."
During their heartfelt chat, the two of them spoke of their backgrounds. Mike shared that his dad passed away when he was young; he also admitted that he'd been in and out of prison until his mother passed away. That's when he realized he wanted to "make money honestly" which led to him working at gas stations pumping petrol and cleaning windows. Phillip, too, shared that he had lost his father at a young age and he'd recently made the decision to live out of his car and travel. "We have both experienced loss and we just bonded on that. I was talking about family, where we're from and how we both ended up in that situation," said the 24-year-old.
Before long, their conversation went viral. Soon, requests began coming in from strangers asking if there was any way they could donate money for Mike. "I never thought any of these videos would get that much traction. I didn't think it would be more than me helping him out, having a conversation, getting to know him. I just wanted to document a video of me and Mike hanging out and sharing an experience," Phillip explained.
Adhering to the requests, he set up a GoFundMe account on February 2, 2021, with an initial target of $1,000. However, that target was smashed within days; strangers managed to raise over $14,000 for Mike. On Chinese New Year, Phillip gave Mike a red envelope containing $1,000 in cash, which was the most he could get at short notice. The 46-year-old broke down at the gift he had been given and told his new friend, "I would never thought this would happen, I ask God for just one thing, life, and he poured you into me."
But that wasn't all that happened. Phillip showed Mike the GoFundMe account with the total amount - it was enough to allow the latter to have a home for an entire year. At that moment, Mike said, "What are you doing to me?"
To help Mike handle his money responsibly, Phillip rounded up some financial advisors. The now-former-homeless man bought clothes, food, and a phone so he could keep in touch with Phillip. "I honestly never foresaw any of this happening. I think the reason they were so popular is that it was so normal, I spent so much time on the streets it was something very normal to me, it didn't occur to me that's not how most people interact with homeless people. I realize when you tag things like "homelessness" you're dehumanizing them, that they're not who they are, they're just a homeless person. He is such a lovely, hard-working human being and I want to humanize him," Phillip said.
Cover image source: Youtube | Phillip Q Vu