It was a bitter cold Wisconsin night that was about to get way chillier for bus driver Natalie Barnes. She spotted a man she’d seen before, but something seemed off with him that night.
He boarded the bus and sat quietly by himself. Then, during her break, he approached Barnes while she was alone. That’s when he uttered five words that would change their lives forever.
How a Bus Driver Changed a Homeless Man’s Life
As per PEOPLE, the familiar man’s name was Richard and he had awful news to share. “I’m officially homeless now,” he said. He said that his home had been condemned and he’d been living on the streets for a week. Hearing that, Barnes offered to buy him a hot meal and warm up on the bus for the rest of her shift.
This act alone is enough to fill our cup, but what Barnes did next will overflow it.
Not wanting to stop there, Barnes called and not just any friend, but one who got in touch with ‘Community Advocates,’ who were able to find Richard some shelter. They are working to find him a long-term home.
For Barnes, Richard’s old age and the cold made her motivation as much about conscience as kindness. “It was important that he found somewhere warm to stay for the night, at minimum,” she said.
Little did she know, but things were about to really warm up for her as well.
How a Community Honored a Caring Bus Driver
To shine a light on her bus-sized heart, Barnes was honored with the MTS Excellence Award by the Milwaukee County Transit System (MCTS).
Created to highlight acts of kindness, MCTS County Executive Chris Abele said the award fit Barnes to a tee. “Natalie demonstrated what we all need to do to fight homelessness: to look out for each other, to care for each other and to work together. I’m deeply grateful for Natalie’s actions,” he said during the ceremony.
Barnes said that Richard and she have become friends with a phone route that runs off-hours. “He thanks me every time he talks to me for helping him,” she said adding, “He calls me his little guardian angel. I’m happy to say that he’s progressing well.”
How One Bus Driver Proves That Kindness Warms Up Lives
Richard had extra real reason to be thankful for Barnes that night. Per WPR, Wisconsin’s recent arctic cold waves have caused a spike in cold-related deaths. The most at-risk group? You guessed it, the old and homeless. Thankfully for him, this arctic blast had an angelic overcast.
When asked about that night, Barnes said that her motivation is pretty simple, whether in rain, sleet or snow.
“At some point in our lives, everybody needs help,” she said. “I wanted to do what I could to help Richard in some way.”
Among kindness quotes, one by Aesop reads, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Sometimes, they give someone the pick-me-up they need to get through the day. Other times, they give someone the wheels to weather a storm.
More from Goalcast: