When Jessica Pittman was driving through her hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi, last year, she couldn’t help but notice an elderly man standing next to his parked car by the side of the road.
Curious, Jessica pulled up beside the man, who seemed to be selling something.
The man introduced himself as Kenneth Smith, and he was there with his wife, Helen.
Together, they were selling kindling wood to pay for Helen’s hospital bills.
A few years ago, Helen was diagnosed with lung cancer. The couple couldn’t afford to pay for all of her expensive medications and doctor visits, so Kenneth started cutting up a rotten tree, putting the wood in bags, and selling it as kindling.
He was asking for $5 a bag.
Fast forward a year and Jessica saw Kenneth standing on the same corner selling his kindling again. But this time, he was alone.
His beloved wife, Helen, had passed away.
Devastated and in debt, Kenneth was selling wood by the side of the road again, trying to pay his late wife’s remaining hospital bills.
Kenneth had no choice but to stand there and wave to motorists in the hope that they’d buy wood from him.
Moved to tears, Jessica decided that she had to do something. So she went on Facebook to see if she could help Kenneth.
But neither Kenneth nor Jessica were prepared for what would happen over the next few days…
Jessica message on Facebook:
“If y’all need any kindling wood, please come buy from this precious 80-year-old elderly man. His name is Kenneth. He parks on the corner of Carl leggett and west Taylor Rd. In Gulfport Right near bayou bluff. He is there every day for hours. Selling for $5 a bag.
Background story: Last year he was there selling as well, but he had his sweet little wife, Helen, with him. He was selling to help pay for his wife’s doctor visits and bills.
This year he is alone.”
“He said his wife, Helen, lost her battle to cancer a few weeks ago and he is still selling to cover pay for her doctor bills.
My heart breaks every time I pass him. He waves at every single car that passes.
Friday I was at the stop sign as a funeral procession was passing by. And he was standing alert with his straw hat over his heart. Precious man.
I can’t buy it all!! Anyway… We can all spare $5 to help this sweet man.”
“After I posted this, a GoFundMe account was created by Kenneth’s son Leslie. Not by me. Here is the link if you aren’t able to go buy kindling from him.
I don’t know the extent of his bills, but have been told that he and his wife spent all of their life savings to cover doctor bills over the last few years of her treatment and he is having a hard time making ends meet,” wrote Jessica.
And her message moved people all around the country. Soon, strangers flocked to Gulfport to buy firewood from Kenneth.
So far his GoFundMe has raised an incredible $100,000 in about a week! Isn’t it amazing what humans can do when we work together?
Although I think there’s something wrong with the US healthcare system that cancer treatments leave people in financial ruin, I choose to emphasize the positive in this story.
We humans can move mountains when we choose to help each other. Please share Kenneth’s story with your friends on Facebook.