A teen working as a Walmart greeter in Georgia was honoured by his school district on Tuesday after he was photographed taking off his sneakers and giving them to a homeless man.
“I looked at his appearance, and I realized he had no shoes, oversized shirt, oversized pants on, and his wife had holes in her socks, so I just knew, ‘Something’s not right,'” said Phil Powell.
“I know he needs shoes, so let me just be a blessing for somebody else.”
Powell told NBC-affiliate WXIA that he experienced homelessness, off and on, for 10 years.
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“I’m 18 now and my last time being homeless was last year, right around my birthday,” he said.
During difficult times, he felt buoyed by others’ acts of kindness towards him.
“I was turning 13, and there was this man at my church, and he didn’t actually know it was my birthday, but I had complimented him on his shoes, and he said, ‘Do you want them?'” he recalled. “Most people just don’t understand, like, what something so little can mean to somebody else in their life.”
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Earlier this summer when he noticed the homeless couple at Walmart, he paid it forward by removing his own shoes – pink Converse sneakers – and giving them to the man.
“I have some people who come to Walmart and tell me, they’ve seen the man on the side of the road, they’ve seen the pink Converses on,” he said.
The high school senior was honoured Tuesday evening at a Douglas County Board of Education meeting with recognition for his act of kindness.
“We are proud that he is one of ours,” school officials said in a statement.
Powell hopes to continue his giving back by going into the medical field to study allergies.
“My life is not the best. But at the end, I’m trying to make it the best,” he said. “Whether I have something to give or not, if I see someone in need, I will always be willing to give.”