When police officers were sent to a call after someone had spotted a black man lurking in the bushes in Barnesville, Georgia, they were thinking it would be as easy as writing him a ticket. However, when they arrived, they were left absolutely sickened to realize exactly what he was doing, and it was something they couldn’t ignore.
The two officers were initially given a report about a man sleeping in a tent in the bushes at Gordon State College. When the officers arrived to investigate the complaint, they intended to give the man a ticket for trespassing but were left absolutely sick when the 19-year-old, later identified as Fred Barley, explained what he was up to and why he was there.
Fred said that he “had ridden his little brother’s bike six hours” to “register for classes for his second semester of college,” according to WSB-TV. He carried with him two bags of his possessions, along with two gallons of water to hydrate himself during the trip.
Initially, Fred thought he could live in the dorms on campus but was devastated when he was told the dorms didn’t open until August. Now homeless, Fred decided to pitch a tent right on campus for a few weeks and planned on surviving on a single box of cereal.
Fred had spent the entire day searching for a job when he returned to his tent for the night and the two officers showed up. After they heard his story, they were sick to their stomachs, knowing that this good kid was in a tough spot. That’s when the officers decided to step in and help.
“He was so understanding and he said, ‘I definitely, I applaud you for doing this,’” Fred explained, recalling his interaction with the officers. After telling him, “We can’t allow you to stay here,” they were quick to add, “but I have somewhere you can stay.”
Without hesitation, the officers took Fred to a local motel and paid for him to stay there for two nights using their own money. “The stuff that’s happening with police officers, I am black, and he didn’t care what color I was,” Fred admitted. “He just helped me, and that meant a lot.”
However, that wasn’t the last of the help Fred would receive because of the officers involved that day. Once one of the officers’ wives heard about the young boy, she shared his story on Facebook, and hundreds of people stepped in to help the homeless student.
“I was shocked by how much support people will give from Lamar County and counties all over and even people from across the country that I’ve never met just wanted to help so much in my life,” Fred explained with gratitude. “I was just so shocked and grateful.”
The kind acts continued pouring in. Not only did the school decide to open the dorms early for Fred, but the motel owner offered a free room until then. DB’s Pizzeria also hired him as a dishwasher, and people have donated clothes, school supplies, shoes, and a bike. Some people are even working on donating him a car, but that’s not all.
In just a few days, strangers have provided Fred with more than he could have possibly dreamed when he was sleeping in the tent not long ago. Remarkably, the GoFundMe page, created for the determined young man, has surpassed its goal of $30,000 in a mere two days, totaling over $37,000 in donations for the once homeless student.
“Some of the gifts aren’t as important as the friends I’ve made,” Fred admitted. “More important than everything — the clothes, the shoes — the relationships mean so much more to me.” Fred plans on going to church with a new friend this Sunday because he admits that God is the driving force that keeps him going every day.
“The Bible says, ‘You can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ so I know I can,” he said. “My legs are working. Millions of people walk and bike to work every day. I definitely think I can bike a couple hours to get to my future.”
It’s amazing to think that all because of the influence of kind and generous strangers, this determined young man’s life is forever changed. With his motivation to succeed no matter the sacrifice and his positive attitude, he will one day be able to pay it forward and return the favor to someone else in need. With a heart like his, that’s probably exactly what he’ll do.
Kindness can change a person’s life. All Fred needed was a hand up, and thankfully, he received it. We all should be more like Fred and those who selflessly gave him the boost he needed when they saw a simple way to make a huge difference. The world could be a much different place.