Elizabeth Miller

Once a week, there is a man that stands on the street corner by Shriver Center. He holds a box of candy and, smiling, asks passersby, “Help save a life today?” You probably know who I mean. And if you’re like me, you’ve always been too busy, apathetic or too annoyed to pay him much attention. Oh sure, I politely decline, smiling back with a “No, sorry” and walk on with my merry business. Sometimes I stay absorbed in my cell phone conversation, or become overly fixed on my shoes, pretending not to see him as I walk by. I never even took the time to know why he was there.

But week after week, month after month of him appearing on that corner, I realized that he was here to stay. His name is Billy. He’s a college graduate-just like you and me.

But a few wrong turns in his life found him in a downward spiral of drugs, a path that he never expected while he was working this way through his promising college career. What is his mission now? Acting as the hope that someone once gave to him. After a 15 minute chat on a hot August afternoon with this man, I realized that his loyalty to Shriver’s corner is more than smiles, candy and asking for a dollar.

He works on behalf of the Cincinnati Restoration Church-a home for drug and alcohol recovery. Their mission is to restore the lives and families of drug addicts. Their actions are simply to love, serve and guide those in need. They provide free counseling and a free shelter for a hopeful recovery to those suffering addiction. Without the right people providing the right messages for recovery, Billy concedes that he could have been without purpose, hope or direction for the rest of his life.

Billy has been seeking donations on Miami’s sidewalks for five years but he’s been serving this cause for 10 years. Not only is he raising money for a cause that literally saved his life-he’s also a reminder to students who think that drugs and alcohol just start out as fun. He said he didn’t even realize when the switch from his fun partying habits turned into an addiction that unraveled his life.

Now his life is dedicated to the cause that gave him a second chance. He’s living proof that people care, and that people will dedicate their lives in hopes to help others. During our conversation, he couldn’t say enough about “believing in change,” and how one person is all it takes to get people back on their feet. That’s the American Dream, he says.

The beauty of his fund raising job, he says, is that we can donate a dollar and be a significant change in someone’s life that we may never meet. He believes in loyalty to a cause. He believes being the hope for others’ survival. His passion and determination to be a presence on our campus is inspiring. Even in the winter, he’s still there-bundled up, with candy and a smile. Can you imagine such dedication? Every week he stands on that corner. Simply asking for a dollar, for a smile, for an acknowledgement. Will you ignore Billy the next time he asks you to save a life? I know I can’t.